Responding to Gov. Brian Kemp’s plans to reopen parts of the economy, DeKalb County Chief Executive Officer Michael Thurmond is urging residents and businesses to maintain precautions to slow the spread of the coronavirus. In an executive order issued April 23, Thurmond calls on citizens to wear face masks in public and implores all re-opening businesses to screen workers for illness and enforce social distancing.

“As we address the health issues of the pandemic, we cannot ignore the economic impact,” Thurmond said in a press release. “Even as we flatten the curve, we cannot become overly comfortable and walk away from strategies that have worked so far.”

DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond. (Special)

State governments, not cities or counties, have the authority to determine when stay-at-home orders can be lifted and business can re-open. Thurmond’s order is not enforceable, but it does provide suggestions for residents and businesses to prevent further spread of the coronavirus.

As some gyms, bowling alleys, hairdressers and other formerly shuttered Georgia businesses begin to reopen in the next week, Thurmond called on all DeKalb residents to wear cloth face coverings and practice social distancing when in public. Thurmond also urged all residents who are over 65 years old or medically fragile to remain home.

The DeKalb order restated Kemp’s requirements for businesses, including temperature screenings for workers and increased workplace sanitation. Thurmond tacked on new recommendations to Kemp’s order, calling on DeKalb businesses to require employees to remain home if another member of his or her household is sick. Thurmond also called on businesses to consider providing increased front-line pay and expanding leave policies for the duration of the emergency.

“The path forward maintains mitigation efforts that have begun to show success to protect the health of our citizens and begin to restore our economy,” Thurmond said. “We will do the right thing.”

Thurmond also encouraged houses of worship to continue remote or physically distant services.

The executive order goes into effect on April 24 and remains until further notice. Thurmond invited residents and workers to report any violations of the state or county orders to Georgia’s COVID-19 hotline by calling 1-844-442-2681.

Thurmond’s order also asks Kemp and the Georgia Department of Public Health to increase access to COVID-19 testing and further investigate coronavirus outbreaks in southwestern Georgia’s Dougherty County and in African American communities in DeKalb County.

“There is no genetic connection to people of color,” said CEO Thurmond. “COVID-19 is an equal opportunity killer.”

–Ryan Kolakowski