Fulton declares emergency, people with coronavirus entered county buildings

(AJC file)

(AJC file)

The Fulton County Board of Commissioners has declared the home of 1 million people in a state of emergency over the coronavirus, and they learned a county building along with the public defender’s office both had people who tested positive for the virus in them.

On Wednesday, for the first time, the Board met via telephone over concerns about spreading COVID-19 — the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The state of emergency will last “until further notice.” This move allows the county manager and the chairman to make contracts more freely and makes the county eligible for federal funding.

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Two people at Fulton's Central Training Center, which offers pre-vocational services to adults with developmental disabilities, tested positive for COVID-19, said Fulton's COO Anna Roach.

She said the landlord of the building that houses the Fulton public defender's office downtown told the county a person with access to the public parts of the building (including the elevators and gym) had tested positive for coronavirus.

Further details were not given, but Roach said they found the information out in the middle of the meeting.

This underscores just how fast the situation is changing and how difficult it is for governments to adapt.

READ | Fulton schools: Coronavirus closure likely to stretch through Spring Break

Dr. S. Elizabeth Ford, interim director of the Fulton health department, said the county is holding its first drive-through specimen collection event Wednesday afternoon. She said patients must have been referred for collections testing by a physicians and then consulted with a member of their epidemiology team.

From there, patients will be given the location of the specimen collection.

Ford said the location is secret so people don’t drive by, see a line of cars and assume they can get tested there.

This is different from the drive-through testing that was recently announced to soon come to Cobb County's Jim Miller Park on Callaway Road south of Marietta, which also isn't public.

READ | Coronavirus causing 'drastic employee shortage' in Fulton courts

Like Cobb, the staff in Fulton are prioritizing emergency staff and those who come into contact with vulnerable populations, like those who work at senior care facilities.

And like the entire nation, Fulton needs more tests.

“I don’t think that we will ever get to a point in Fulton County where every individual (who wants one) will be able to get a test,” she said.

Commissioners had lots of questions for Ford, specifically around quarantine sites.

“We’re looking at all types of facilities, dorms ... and the (Atlanta) Detention Center is one of the many options,” she said.

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Ford said the search for willing hotels nor dormitories has panned out. County Manager Dick Anderson said there have not been conversations with the city of Atlanta about use of the detention center.

Roach said the county is doing what they can to protect key personnel. For example, she said the 911 center has opened up a second facility near the county airport where the shifts will be split — that way, if someone is infected, they put fewer 911 operators at risk.

Kemp doesn’t yet plan on imposing restrictions on bars, restaurants