Coronavirus Update – March 19: 287 confirmed cases; parks still open; APS positive test; events postponed; more

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Georgia has jumped from 197 cases yesterday to 287 today. There have also been seven additional deaths in the state, according to new data from the Georgia Department of Public Health.

The City of Atlanta is keeping its public parks open for now during the coronavirus pandemic, but is closing park playgrounds, tennis centers, golf courses and natatoriums. The parks remain open on the normal daily schedule of 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., the Department of Parks and Recreation said in a March 19 announcement on its website. The department recommends “social distancing,” which federal officials have said means staying at least 6 feet away from other people. Learn-to-swim classes and afterschool, senior and athletic programming is canceled.

The Fulton County Board of Health notified Atlanta Public Schools (APS) of its first confirmed case of COVID-19. However, in this case, there is no exposure to students, and for staff there was no close contact with this employee based on an investigation by the Board of Health. Based on their determination, public health officials do not have any other students or employees to interview at this time. Per guidance from health officials, the identity of the employee must be kept confidential, but the employee did work at North Atlanta High School.

With Atlanta City Hall shut down by the coronavirus pandemic, permitting, plan review and inspections are on hold while alternatives are figured out. “The safety of our staff and our community is of foremost importance to us,” said Tim Keane, the commissioner of the Department of City Planning, in a March 19 announcement. Inspection services are expected to resume by March 25, possible with an option of third-party inspections to supplement city staff, said Keane. The city is still working on shifting permitting to a “digital format,” he said. One exception to those delays: “critical community infrastructure, including hospitals and health care facilities.”

Atlanta City Council President Felicia A. Moore has self-isolated after two individuals who attended the National League of Cities’ Congressional City Conference tested positive for COVID-19. Moore was at the conference but had no direct contact with the individuals. “The discovery was unsettling even though I display no signs of the illness and attended no sessions with the impacted individuals. Furthermore, it validated my previously determined decision to self-isolate. At this stage in our efforts to flatten the curve of COVID-19, it is critical that we all practice self-isolation as a matter of standard protocol. Self-isolation is critical to minimizing further spread of the novel coronavirus throughout our communities. I made this personal decision as a means of simultaneously protecting myself and others. I urge every member of the public to accept as much personal accountability as possible during this pandemic. Stay inside and do not venture out unless absolutely necessary. Self-isolation is a challenge to manage, but it is the right thing for all of us to do at this time.”

60,000 people have signed a MoveOn petition calling for Kroger supermarkets to provide paid sick leave, which would help slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect shoppers and workers. View the petition at this link.

Two more big profile postponements: The 44th annual Atlanta Film Festival + Creative Conference, originally slated for April 30 – May 10, and the 10th annual Atlanta Food & Wine Festival that was slated for May at Historic Fourth Ward Park.

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