Coronavirus Pandemic: Emory treating patient; Fulton Schools update; no water terminations; State of City cancelled; more

Courtesy CDC

The World Health Organization officially declared coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic today,  March. 11. In the U.S., there are now more than 1,000 cases of COVID-19 and 31 people have died.

Emory Healthcare has admitted its first patient who has tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19). Which hospital is treating the patient was not disclosed. A statement posted online reads: “We are committed to maintaining patient privacy in accordance with federal regulations. The coronavirus situation remains fluid and we are prepared to see more admissions and ambulatory visits moving forward. For patients who test presumptive positive, depending on their condition, they may or may not remain in the hospital. In some instances, patients may be sent home for home quarantine in coordination with Georgia Department of Public Health to await a confirmation from the CDC. If a test result is confirmed and the patient requires hospital care, Emory Healthcare is fully prepared and equipped to treat the patient. We are following all established screening protocols and have implemented infection control best practices throughout the health system.

A second Fulton County Schools employee has tested positive for COVID-19, according to a report on the system’s website. The second employee is also from Woodland Middle School in East Point where an infected teacher was identified on Monday. Woodland will remain closed until March 23 for additional cleaning, but the county’s other schools are still expected to open tomorrow, March 12.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ annual “State of the City” address, originally scheduled for March 12, has been postponed indefinitely at the request of its “title sponsor,” the Coca-Cola Company, due to coronavirus concerns. No new date was announced after the last-minute postponement. A notice sent by Coca-Cola to “State of the City” guests and provided by company spokesperson Scott Leith cited the coronavirus as the reason for the postponement. “While the number of presumed cases of coronavirus in Atlanta is currently low, we believe acting with an abundance of caution is the right thing to do for all of us,” the statement said. The “State of the City” was scheduled to be held the morning of March 12 at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta hotel in Downtown.

City of Atlanta residents with unpaid water bills will not have service shut off for the next 60 days under a March 11 order from Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued in response to coronavirus concerns. “The health and wellbeing of Atlanta residents is at the forefront of everything we do as a city,” said Bottoms in a press release. “Access to water is paramount in the prevention of COVID-19 or any infectious health threat and no one should be deprived of this fundamental resource because of an inability to pay.” The order does not specify the end date of the grace period, but in calendar days it would be May 10.

The Atlanta City Council will operate two mock meetings and perform a telework day to engage and assess its remote emergency operating procedures on March 12 at 2 p.m. The procedures are designed to ensure that council meetings are accessible to residents and Council members can maintain communication with their staff and constituents if City Hall is closed. Council members will participate from their offices inside City Hall and cast their votes using the electronic legislative system and communicating verbally through a telephone bridge. The city council will conduct the second mock meeting through remote access on Tuesday, March 17 at 10 a.m. A telework day for all council members and their staff, the Office of Research and Policy Analysis, Office of Communications, and Office of the Municipal Clerk is scheduled for Thursday, March 19. “We want to be prepared for anything that may cause disruptions to our daily activities and access to City Hall,” Atlanta City Council President Felicia A. Moore said. “The mock meetings and designated telework day will give us the opportunity to gauge our procedures, train our staff, and resolve any technical issues to ensure there is continuity in our operations in the event of an emergency.”

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued an Administrative Order directing the Chief Financial Officer to coordinate with the Chief Health Officer and Director of Emergency Preparedness to develop a financial framework to identify funds to implement the activities and needs of the Mayor’s Coronavirus Pandemic Coordination Team. “While facing the coronavirus health threat, this Order will ensure the City is in its best posture to conduct day-to-day operations without disruption,” said Mayor Bottoms. “This funding framework will be used to guarantee the City of Atlanta is positioned to deliver services and conduct operations in a seamless manner regardless of what we as a community may face in the days and weeks ahead.” Last month, under the direction of Mayor Bottoms, the Mayor’s Pandemic Coordination Team was created to lead the City’s strategic plan to ensure minimal impact to the City of Atlanta in the case of a COVID-19 pandemic. The team is led by the City’s Chief Health Officer, Dr. Angelica Geter Fugerson, and the City’s Director of Emergency Preparedness and former FBI Special Agent, Felipe den Brok. The Work Group is an inter-departmental effort with the mission of ensuring City operations continuity and public safety readiness.

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