Covid-19 in Fulton County: 7 Months Later

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Chris Thomas, Staff Writer

This past month, the Fulton County Board of Commissioners unanimously decided to allocate $15 million dollars in additional federal Coronavirus aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act money to the cities of Fulton County. This essentially doubled the cities’ funds to fight Covid-19.

 

However, this hefty payout was only a portion of what the mayors had requested and an even smaller portion of what the county had received from the state government. It should be noted that Atlanta is not one of these cities, despite being located in Fulton County. As the most populous city in the state, Atlanta received a direct allotment of $88.5 million in CARES Act money. The other Fulton cities were left to fend for themselves when Governor Brian Kemp told them they would have to petition the county for funding.

 

So why all the fuss? After all, Fulton county encompasses these cities. In theory, any spending done by the county would help the cities. Unfortunately, it is not quite that simple. The county believes it is more than qualified to control the lion’s share of the funding. Adding on to that, Chairman Robb Pitts of the Fulton County board of commissioners has gone on record stating that, “The intent of this Act was that the money be used to help people, not cities”.

 

The Mayors disagree. They feel that the money would be best spent by the cities themselves and have accused the county of mismanagement and miscommunication. Regardless of continued legal threats and public disapproval, this conflict will soon come to a close. Chairman Pitts has stated that this is the final offer and mayors have reported to the Atlanta Journal Constitution that they may be willing to concede if they can convince their councils to accept the deal.

 

It is not often that the cities of Fulton county find themselves on the same side of an argument, but global pandemics do not break out very often either. On Mar. 2, 2020 the first confirmed Coronavirus cases popped up in Georgia, right here in Fulton County. For a couple days this was nothing more than a headline, but by the end of the week Fulton County Schools were forced to close their doors, presumably for a day. Before the end of the following week, Georgia reported its first Covid-19 related death and Fulton County Schools closed their doors indefinitely. If you are not keeping track, this all occurred within 10 days.

 

In the weeks that followed, daily activity was significantly reduced, for some more than others, by preventative Covid-19 measures. Churches, restaurants and more closed their doors around the county. Those who were allowed to remain open did so with restrictions. In Mid-May, Fulton county handed down reopening guidelines. These were promptly postponed, a popular theme with this pandemic.

 

Now that autumn is in full swing, the majority of those guidelines have come to pass. Retail stores, gyms and even schools are reopening, but not without some pushback from certain teachers in the county. On Sep. 17, dozens of teachers walked out, during their lunch break, to voice their frustration with the impending return of face-to-face instruction. Fulton County was displeased that this occurred during the workday, but wanted to make it clear that they valued personal expression.

 

In their defense, Fulton County Schools claims they have made data-driven decisions throughout this process and will continue to do so. On top of that, Fulton County appears to be on its way towards fewer new monthly cases for two consecutive months. Still, Fulton County leads the state in cases, 27,684, and deaths, 575, as of Oct. 1. Significant progress has been made to optimize life with Covid-19, but with a vaccine projected for as early as November or as late as September of next year, it is clear that we are not out of the woods quite yet.