Atlanta City Councilman for District 2 Amir Farokhi on March 25 held a virtual town hall for residents and other interested parties about the COVID-19 pandemic.
The webinar included an update from Atlanta Public Schools, a summary of governmental responses and resources for staying up-to-date and safe while the situation develops.
About 165 people joined the event online. The majority live in Farokhi's district, which includes Midtown, Candler Park, Downtown, Inman Park, Old Fourth Ward and Poncey-Highland.
The discussion kicked off by with a background on governmental response, including the federal government’s prospective stimulus, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s “shelter-in-place” order for those who are at high risk, and City of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottom’s 14-day stay at home order. Bars and night clubs are also closed, gatherings of 10 or more people are banned and schools that are not offering distance learning are closed.
Mayor Bottoms provided a list of “essential businesses” that should remain open, including those in healthcare, media, gas stations and auto repair, banks, hardware stores, plumbers and electricians, postal delivery services, dry cleaners and laundromats, schools with distance learning, restaurants with carryout and delivery, childcare, and professional service firms. Anything related to construction may continue. Midtown Alliance is deemed by the City to provide essential services that support City infrastructure.
As of March 25, there were 1,247 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Georgia, including 198 in Fulton County and 107 in DeKalb County.
Atlanta Public Schools Providing Electronic Resources, Food and More
Atlanta Public Schools Chair Jason Esteves joined the call to give updates on the school system’s closure. He said APS is focused on ensuring families have the tools they need to work remotely and distance learn, and thousands of devices and wi-fi hotspots have been distributed to students. For families who don’t have access to electronic resources, APS is offering paper resources.
“If the closure continues, we will continue to adjust and keep pushing out resources to our families,” Esteves said.
APS is also providing food and health resources, including mental health counseling. It has opened 10 food distribution sites throughout Atlanta and distributed 70,030 meals within the last week and a half. It will also provide food via middle school bus routes.
APS has also partnered with local nonprofit Goodr to deliver food to families with students in the school system.
Here are more ways to stay informed if your child attends APS:
- Families experiencing housing or food insecurity can call 211, a service of the United Way that connects people who need help to resources.
- APS is holding a virtual town hall on Facebook Live tomorrow, Thursday, March 26 at 4 p.m.
- APS has a site dedicated to novel coronavirus updates, which can be found here.
- Esteves can be contacted here.
Resources for Residents
Mayor Bottoms’ stay-at-home order, announced March 23, does not apply to the Atlanta BeltLine or city parks. However, sports facilities like tennis courts and playgrounds within parks are closed and social distancing is still required. Gathering spots like gazebos are also off-limits, but the city does not currently have the resources to fence them off or have dedicated staff for each one.
Farokhi said the situation is under constant evaluation, and those with questions can email email@example.com and a member of the mayor’s team will respond.
“I was pushing for this stay-at-home order, and I think we’ll need to encourage each other to abide by it,” Farokhi said. “The sooner we abide by these guidelines, the sooner we’ll come out of it and protect our hospital system as well.”
The mayor has also created a $7 million fund to assist those impacted by COVID-19, which includes:
- $1 million to provide emergency assistance to child food programs
- $1 million to provide emergency assistance to senior food programs
- $1 million to provide emergency assistance to homeless preparedness
- $1.5 million to support small business continuity
- $1 million for the purchase of technology to support the City’s full telework deployment
- $1.5 million to assist hourly wage earners of businesses engaged with the City of Atlanta
A concern among residents during the call was addressing the spread of COVID-19 among the homeless population. Farokhi said the city’s third party partner, Partners for HOME, is dedicated to providing testing and transport services, and isolating those with coronavirus, possibly in hotels or universities. Partners for HOME’s COVID-19 website response page can be found here.
Other Town Hall Takeaways
- Package and liquor stores qualify under the current order as “essential businesses,” and alcoholic beverages are also temporarily available for take-out from participating restaurants. However, state law prohibits delivery services like Grubhub from delivering alcohol.
- Absentee ballots for the May 19 primary will be mailed to all 6.9 million active voters.
- There is an eviction moratorium on Atlanta Housing Authority building occupants and those using government housing vouchers. It does not apply to those not living in housing that is not subsidized.
- There has been no change to the city’s solid waste, water and public safety services.
- Construction can continue under the mayor’s executive order, but many services are currently halted.
- If you see large groups gathering or restaurants open for dine-in, don’t hesitate to call 911. Calls are prioritized and it will not divert officers from being dispatched for emergencies.
- For non-emergency issues like potholes and sidewalks, call 311 or use the ATL311 app.
- The first step you should take if you or someone you know is not feeling well and suspect it could be COVID-19 is to call the Georgia COVID-19 hotline: 1-844-442-2681
Farokhi will host another virtual town hall on March 26 at 3 p.m. for the arts and cultural community. To join, email him. Videos and slides from his three engagements this week will be posted by the weekend.
“It can feel like we’re in a tunnel right now with no light at the end of the tunnel,” Farokhi said. “The sooner we all pull together, the sooner we’ll get through this.”
District 2's COVID-19 resource page, with Q&A with Farokhi and recordings of his virtual town halls, is here.