Local City Halls vary in their pandemic reopening timelines, with some aiming for late May and others in a wait-and-see mode at least partly based on the trend of COVID-19 cases.
Coordinating the reopening timeline with other cities is a possibility under consideration.
For two city governments, the reopening plans follow close encounters with the pandemic. Brookhaven City Hall has been shuttered since March 14, when it abruptly closed after an employee was diagnosed with COVID-19, sending most of its leaders, as well as a Reporter journalist, into self-quarantine. In Sandy Springs, City Manager Andrea Surratt and City Attorney Dan Lee both contracted and recovered from the disease, forcing Mayor Rusty Paul and other officials into quarantines.
City parks remain open — including in Sandy Springs, which had them closed until May 2 — but most facilities and amenities in those green spaces remain closed for now. No matter the reopening timelines, local cities are asking residents to call, email or use online options for city services first.
In Brookhaven, the timetable will follow the trend of the pandemic, according to city spokesperson Burke Brennan.
“The decision to reopen City Hall and Parks facilities will be influenced by a 14-day period of stable or declining new COVID-19 cases in DeKalb County or statewide,” he said.
Brookhaven is collaborating and sharing ideas with other area cities on reopening timelines, Brennan said, but there is no formal coordination at this point.
Dunwoody is planning a “soft” reopening of city offices on May 18, according to city spokesperson Jennifer Boettcher.
“Some city staff and contractors who have been working remotely will return to work in the building. Others who are able to work seamlessly from home will continue to do so to keep the numbers down,” she said.
Dunwoody will begin a phased-in reopening of parks facilities and amenities soon, Boettcher said. More details about the city’s reopening plans will be shared next week.
Sandy Springs is considering a reopening in late May for City Hall — and no earlier than June for Municipal Court. It is also planning to coordinate its reopening with those of other north Fulton County cities, according to Surratt and Paul.
“All I can share today is, late May will be the timeline that makes sense for a timeline to reopen the facilities,” Surratt told City Council on May 5.
She said the first step would bring city employees back to offices after they’ve been thoroughly sanitized. Policies and procedures for reopening to the public will be put in place. The other north Fulton cities will follow those same steps.
Using the Sandy Springs Tennis Center as an example, Paul described the concern about Sandy Springs reopening facilities without that coordination with other cities. Residents of neighboring cities might flock to Sandy Springs’ parks facilities, he said.
“Now all of a sudden, we get a rush and it’s impossible to coordinate social distancing,” he said.
“We don’t like to have our buildings closed to the public,” Surratt said. “But we’ll get back to that at the right time.”
“We know at some point in time we’ll go back to somewhat normal operations. We are making a deliberate plan,” Surratt said. “In the meantime, we have to make this building safe – a lot of cleaning and PPE [personal protective equipment] and additional signage.”
Teleworking has been effective for many departments, she said. But for courts and recreation, providing service is difficult when it’s not possible to be physically present.
The city of Atlanta did not respond to questions about its timeline. However, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has become a prominent critic of Gov. Brian Kemp’s lifting of restrictions on businesses, appearing frequently on TV to question the public health consequences. She formed a reopening advisory council whose report is due May 15.