DUNWOODY, Ga. — The hustle and bustle of Dunwoody is on leave for the time being. The city’s office landscape is all but empty, its swarm of shoppers almost vanished.
It’s a far cry from what Mayor Lynn Deutsch expected four months ago when she was sworn in as the city’s fourth chief executive.
As the COVID-19 crisis took hold and developed into a full-scale pandemic last month, Deutsch said she became increasingly concerned.
She said she was hoping the governor would issue a strong shelter in place order so that everyone in the state is operating under the same guidelines. She said she’s been calling for some kind of homogeny, at least regionally, for a while.
“The difference in rules, I think, has been really confusing to citizens and businesses alike,” Deutsch said.
The sticking point, she said, has been that in Georgia, people move about. People may grocery shop near their home but travel out of county to buy other items, she said.
Deutsch said she had been hearing from residents for some time about issuing a shelter in place order for Dunwoody.
“My residents, they were asking me, I got emails repeatedly, and messages saying, ‘what are you waiting for?’ throughout this whole process,” the mayor said.
Deutsch issued an executive order for shelter in place on Saturday, March 28. It was ratified two days later by the City Council.
“Traffic is already way down,” she said. “I did a ride-along with the police chief last week and, at lunchtime at Perimeter Center, there was no traffic. Our corporations seem to have everybody working from home. It’s very quiet.”
If a business remains open, they must follow a strict set of rules for social distancing. Businesses that require contact, other than healthcare facilities, have been ordered to shut down.
“You drive through Perimeter Center, virtually every business is closed,” Deutsch said. “And that wasn’t because we closed them, these are national businesses that made decisions on their own.”
The mayor said she’s honored to serve a community that has taken the lead in the crisis by observing the rules and helping one another.
“My community always makes me proud,” she said. “They have made me exceptionally proud, starting with the fact that they were mostly sheltered. They’ve done a really good job of sheltering in place already.”
She said she’s also aware of many neighborhoods looking out for neighbors who are elderly or otherwise at risk by running errands to the grocery store and rendering other aid.
Deutsch has teamed with Erika Harris who organized Lunch-4-Our-Bunch, a local effort to provide food and money to two area food pantries. The support benefits Malichi’s Storehouse in Dunwoody and the Community Assistance Center in Sandy Springs.
“We started pushing information about how to order food donations to the pantries from Target and Amazon,” Deutsch said. “We also do a Tuesday food drive. So far, we’ve done it for three Tuesdays where people come and donate pantry items.”
She said Malichi’s served 150 families in their one day of distributing food bags on Wednesday two weeks ago. On the next Wednesday, she said, they served 250 families with bags of pantry items.
“Our Dunwoody Community Garden donates fresh produce to Malichi’s each Wednesday,” she said. “Last week, they donated 77 pounds of produce. When you consider that’s mostly lettuces and stuff, that’s a lot of produce.”
These efforts of community support — spontaneous and generous — are needed, she said.
“It’s important to realize that there are families that two weeks ago wouldn’t have imagined they would need help, and now they do,” Deutsch said.
Erika Harris has set up a donation page for the food drives at gofundme.com/f/lunch-4-our-bunch.