DeKalb County to ‘test its public health emergency protocol’

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 officials say the county will “test its public health emergency protocol” through the weekend, a move that could portend a coronavirus-related declaration of emergency from CEO Michael Thurmond.

A news release said the test will involve placing county employees into three categories — front-line workforce, remote access workforce and reserve auxiliary workforce — and seeing how the county functions. The test is scheduled to start Friday and conclude at the end of the day Monday.

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The news release said the protocol is only a test unless Thurmond declares a state of emergency, which would give him expanded powers to address the health and safety concerns presented by the coronavirus.

“If that becomes necessary, we must ensure that our emergency protocol supports the seamless operation of the government,” Thurmond wrote in a letter to employees.

According to data released Thursday, a total of 287 Georgians have tested positive for the new coronavirus. Seven additional deaths were also confirmed, bringing the state's total to 10.

A total of 22 confirmed coronavirus cases had been reported in DeKalb County.

Prior to Thursday's announcement, DeKalb had already closed county buildings to the public. Crucial county services have remained available but operations have moved to email, phone, standard mail and other electronic platforms – a process deemed "socially distant service delivery."

During a "virtual" town hall meeting held Thursday night by county and public health officials, Thurmond said the county is "going to be more aggressive going forward."

Other local governments, meanwhile, have already declared states of emergency and taken more drastic steps to try and stem the spread of coronavirus.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms signed an order Thursday morning directed restaurants and bars to close except for take-out and delivery. It also closed other gathering spots like gyms, movie theaters and bowling alleys.

The city of South Fulton has gone even further, putting a curfew in place.

In DeKalb, several local cities have imposed restrictions. BrookhavenClarkston and Dunwoody all have restricted in-restaurant dining. An order from Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett did the same Thursday, in an executive order that also outlawed gatherings of more than 50 people — a category that includes weddings, funerals and more.

The Doraville City Council was expected to meet via teleconference Thursday night to adopt an ordinance that would also target massage parlors, nail salons, gyms and events facilities.

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