By J.D. Capelouto, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said the city could move to the next phase of its coronavirus reopening plan as early as next week if cases continue decreasing in Atlanta.
During a briefing with members of the press Wednesday, the mayor reminded residents to stay vigilant and not let their guard down amid the pandemic.
“We are hopeful that our numbers will continue to go in the right direction, but I just want to remind you that COVID is still deadly,” Bottoms said.
Confirmed coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have declined in metro Atlanta since the end of July. Fulton County has had over 26,000 confirmed cases and 556 deaths, according to the state Department of Public Health.
The city is currently in “Phase 2” of its five-phase reopening plan, after officials announced last week it was loosening some guidelines to allow small gatherings of no more than 10 people, but still asking the public to stay home except for essential trips and to wear face masks in public.
Under Phase 3, the city would begin accepting event permits with appropriate safety precautions.
During Wednesday’s briefing, Bottoms also reminded residents to fill out their 2020 U.S. Census forms and said the city is expanding its outreach efforts to improve response rates among Atlantans. As of Friday, 83% of Georgia’s households had been counted, according to U.S. Census Bureau data, placing the state second-to-last in the nation for the percentage of households counted so far.
She said the city supports a lawsuit recently filed by groups including the National Urban League and League of Woman Voters that accuses the Trump administration of improperly rushing to complete the Census count.
In response to a question about the search for a new permanent police chief, Bottoms said the city has learned it is “probably the most inopportune time to conduct a national search for a new police chief, because so many cities are in flux right now conducting their own searches.”
Instead, she said, the city is focused on giving interim Chief Rodney Bryant resources and support. Bryant took the reins at the department in June after former chief Erika Shields stepped downin the wake of the fatal police shooting of Rayshard Brooks.
“For us to really have an opportunity to evaluate, to engage in a productive police search … this would not be the best time to do that,” Bottom said, adding that “This is a tough time for public safety across the country. Atlanta’s not alone.”