Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said in a Tuesday morning press conference that the City of Atlanta was making great progress toward its full reopening plan, but the Delta variant of COVID-19 and the refusal of many to get vaccinated have forced a setback.
Last year, the city set a five phase reopening plan for city offices, resumption of public events, and the end of a mask mandate. The city recently started accepting applications for large public events again and the calendar is full of arts, food and music festivals.
Bottoms reinstated the mask mandate on July 28, but said she wasn’t planning to return to last year’s “lockdown” mode, which saw events cancelled and businesses and restaurant dining rooms closed. However, she said any decision she makes would be based on “data and science.”
“We were making great progress,” Bottoms said. “We were at stage four of the reopening plan and now we’re on the verge of going back to stage two.”
Phase two calls for city offices remaining closed, only allows for small gatherings of 10 or less, and puts restaurants and businesses back to delivery and curbside pickup. However, with Gov. Brian Kemp letting the pandemic state of emergency pass and not supporting masks or return to lockdown, how far Bottoms could go without a challenge is unknown.
“Please, please, please get vaccinated,” Bottoms urged residents, noting that at 49 percent, vaccinations rates are higher in the city than in the rest of the state, which remains one of the nation’s lowest for getting inoculated.
The mayor’s pandemic advisor, Dr. Carlos del Rio from Emory University, said it plainly during the press conference: “We’re tired of COVID.”
However, del Rio said the progress Georgia and the nation had been making against COVID was set back due to he highly transmissible Delta Variant.
“The Delta Variant is on par with chicken pox for being highly transmissible,” he said.
Del Rio said the vaccine continues to be effective, despite reports of “breakthrough” cases where fully vaccinated people have still become ill with COVID-19. He said those fully vaccinated had a nearly zero chance of dying of COVID-19.
“There are still 90 to 100 million Americans who haven’t been vaccinated and Georgia is lower than the national average,” del Rio said. “We’re seeing more hospitalizations and most of those are people who have not been vaccinated.”