The Advisory Council for the Reopening of the City of Atlanta has submitted a 119-page report with final recommendations for a gradual process to Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.
The report does not include specific timelines, but instead suggests metrics and policies for setting them. It also compiles results of a public opinion survey that found the vast majority of respondents unwilling to go to various kinds of businesses, and more than 65% unwilling to return to their own workplace.
The report’s recommendations are intended as voluntary extra measures working alongside federal and state legal orders.
“The advisory council’s recommendations are based on the current available science on the virus, which we know is rapidly evolving,” said Advisory Council co-chair Robert Ashe III in a press release. “The council stressed that as the city establishes metrics and guidelines for reopening, the guidance should be reevaluated and amended as the science and facts are updated and made available to the public.”
Bottoms will review the advisory council’s recommendations and the current state of COVID-19 cases in the city and will provide additional guidance in the coming weeks, according to the press release.
The report contains evidence-based short-, mid-, and long-range recommendations for the safe and data-driven reopening of the city.
The advisory council was established by Bottoms through an administrative order on April 20. The 60-person council is composed of experts from across Atlanta’s business, nonprofit, healthcare and government sectors.
The report outlined three core focus areas for Atlanta’s reopening strategy. One is that the city establish and track clear metrics to signal to residents and businesses when they can more safely reopen, what safety measures they should take, and how their operations or routines may need to be adjusted.
Suggested metrics for the first phase of a multi-stage reopening include: the daily number of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations trend downward for 14 consecutive days; more than 50% of hospital and intensive care unit capacity is available; hospitals have a greater than 90-day supply of personal protective equipment for personnel and patients; the capacity to conduct 30 diagnostic tests per 1,000 residents per month; have 30 contract tracers per 100,000 residents; and establish a percentage of school and childcare facilities that must be open.
The report says metrics will also enable the city, in partnership with the Georgia Department of Public Health and other agencies, to quickly identify resurgences of COVID-19, and provide an early warning system to the public in the event safety measures and restrictions need to be reimposed.
Another recommendation is that the city supplement the state’s reopening criteria with additional, voluntary guidelines. The council outlined five sequential phases for reopening, providing specific metrics that should be achieved to advance to each next phase, and voluntary guidance for individuals, businesses/nonprofits and the city for each phase.
The third core recommendation is that the city continue to work with public and private partners to address cross-cutting and sector-specific considerations for reopening, many of which cannot be addressed by a single actor or sector alone.
In addition to the insights from members of the advisory council and other leading health experts, the report also drew from the findings of a resident survey asking Atlantans how they were approaching and interacting with various businesses and venues during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was conducted between April 28 and May 4 with over 15,700 respondents.
An overwhelming majority of survey respondents indicated that, at the time of the survey, they felt unwilling to go to most businesses and venue types. Parks and other outdoor public spaces were the only category that most respondents were willing to attend, with 33.8% unwilling. Of the respondents, 65.2% were unwilling to return to their own workplace.
Approximately 97% of survey respondents indicated they will not feel safe going out to various venues after reopening without taking their own protective measures, such as wearing a face mask, hand-washing, avoiding crowds and wearing their own personal protective equipment.
Respondents overwhelmingly indicated that, if required to wear a mask by a workplace or business establishment, they would be willing to do so.
View the entire report here.
–John Ruch contributed