The city of Dunwoody has prohibited gatherings of 10 or more people, effective March 27, because of the coronavirus pandemic. The city is also calling for statewide guidance for a cohesive COVID-19 plan.

The City Council at a March 26 special call emergency virtual meeting approved an amendment to the city’s emergency ordinance that prohibits 10 or more people from gathering in public spaces. Because it is an amendment to the original ordinance passed on March 18, it will last for 30 days from the original ordinance unless the council votes to extend it.

That includes, but is not limited to, weddings, religious gatherings, parties, funerals, sporting events, social events, conferences and other gatherings, the resolution said. The order goes into effect on March 27 at midnight.

Exceptions apply to critical facilities, which include government facilities providing essential services; schools; retail stores in excess of 15,000 square feet, such as grocery stores; pharmacies; hospitals; and medical offices.

“We really are just trying to encourage everybody to not be in these gatherings that are potential vectors for transmission,” City Councilmember Jim Riticher said. “And most people are already doing it.”

City Councilmember Stacey Harris asked how the ordinance will be enforced.

“We certainly don’t want to be heavy-handed or conduct ourselves like we’re in a police state,” Police Chief Billy Grogan said. “But I think going up to groups and just say, ‘Hey, we just want you all to know that you’re not allowed to congregate in groups like this so you all need to break it up.’”

The council also signed a resolution that asks the state to implement a statewide response to the pandemic.

Other cities have implemented state of emergency ordinances but they have varied in restrictions.

“There is tremendous confusion and we are asking the governor to help us and help our fellow local government officials by passing statewide guidelines that will help the residents of Georgia understand where we are today in this situation,” Mayor Lynn Deutsch said.

Gov. Brian Kemp on March 23 issued new emergency orders requiring some people at risk of COVID-19 to stay at home, shuttering bars and nightclubs statewide, and prohibiting some gatherings of 10 or more people. The state has not yet issued a stay-at-home order.

On March 23, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued a stay-at-home order for 14 days that took effect at midnight March 24.

On March 24, the Brookhaven City Council ordered residents to shelter in place through April 15 and declared a 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew. The council also called on Kemp to implement a statewide version.

In a March 25 press release, Deutsch urged residents to stay home. Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul and the City Council recently made a similar call, pressing residents to volunteer stay at home under threat of a formal order.

Deutsch reiterated the message at the March 26 council meeting. 

“If it’s not essential for you to go somewhere, please stay at home,” Deutsch said.

Hannah Greco

Hannah Greco is writer and media communications specialist based in Atlanta.