County buildings, city halls in DeKalb close to the public

DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond answers questions to residents of Oakhurst during the meeting were residents received the latest information about the plans for the county’s upcoming sewer projects on and around Green Street on Tuesday, March 10, 2020. MIGUEL MARTINEZ FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

DeKalb County and several of its cities have begun restricting public access to government buildings and facilities, a move aimed at limiting personal contact and protecting workers from the spread of coronavirus.

But city and county officials said crucial public services will remain available — through a “socially distant service delivery strategy.”

DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond that means customers can engage with any county department via email, phone, standard mail and other electronic platforms.

Thurmond has directed all county departments to activate their emergency operations plans. Recreation and senior centers are closed, though the latter will still have meals available for members. This week’s Board of Commissioners meetings have been cancelled.

More information is available at or by calling 404-371-2000.

“DeKalb County government remains open for business,” Thurmond said in a news release. “We will continue to offer a high level of services and support for DeKalb County.”

As of lunchtime Monday, Georgia had reported 121 confirmed cases of coronavirus; 10 of them were in DeKalb County. Numbers have steadily climbed in recent days as testing increases.

DeKalb's three largest cities — DunwoodyStonecrest and Brookhaven — announced they are closing their city halls and canceling upcoming city council and commission meetings. Officials said that staff members were working remotely and many services will still be available to the public through the cities' websites.

The city of Lithonia postponed all public meetings until at least next month. Avondale Estates is continuing its meetings but prohibiting in-person attendance from the public, instead allowing residents to participate through "virtual teleconferencing." The city of Decatur is also continuing with its Monday night commission meeting, with only three commission members planning to attend. Residents are encouraged to stay home and watch the meeting online, submitting any questions or comments to the city manager via email.

Decatur later announced that city buildings would be closed to the public starting Tuesday.

Gov. Brian Kemp declared a public health emergency on Saturday and the dominoes have fallen quickly since.

School districts across metro Atlanta have closed for the foreseeable future; court systems across Georgia have been ordered to halt all non-essential functions; and the March 24 presidential primary has been suspended until May.

Kemp and health officials have urged Georgians to stay inside as much as possible, wash their hands and avoid large gatherings.

Meals and snacks will also be made available for students to pick up at select schools and recreation centers.

A news release said DeKalb firefighters and paramedics have acquired “additional personal protective equipment” for responding to potential coronavirus calls. Staff at 911 centers are equipped with new questions to help identify suspected cases of the virus while taking calls.

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