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Atlanta mayor weighs in on city's slow tiptoe away from COVID-19 shutdown

Voluntary guidelines shift; mayor says data shows improvement

ATLANTA — The City of Atlanta has expanded its guidelines to slowly reopen the city amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The mayor’s office stresses that the city’s stay-at-home guidelines are shifting based on scientific data and not on the calendar. 

They are also voluntary. Over the Memorial Day holiday, social media images showed people clustered outdoors at Edgewood Avenue and Midtown, and indoors at some restaurants that converted into music-fueled nightspots.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms saw some of those images, and said they reminded her of some of her own attitudes as a young adult.  

"What I saw were primarily young people who think they are invincible, and it can’t happen to them," Bottoms told 11Alive Wednesday. "The sad reality is (Coronavirus infection) can happen to anyone."

RELATED: Atlanta reopening plan moving to Phase 2: What it means for you, and how we get to Phase 3

Atlanta’s new guidelines have familiar themes encouraging essential travel only; social distancing gatherings of no more than 10 people; to-go and delivery orders only from restaurants and retailers. That’s more restrictive compared to the state law, which allows limited dining room service in Atlanta and beyond. 

Bottoms said the city restrictions eased because, over a 14 day span, Fulton County health records showed consistent decreases in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, hospital bed use, and the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests.

"I believe the decrease in numbers that we saw is because we took very aggressive action - especially in the metro area and our densely populated areas - that made our numbers not as high as we’ve seen in other places," Bottoms said.

RELATED: Breaking down COVID-19 cases in Atlanta by zip code

When Gov. Brian Kemp reopened certain businesses last month, Bottoms was among his critics.  But she says the increase in cases she'd predicted hasn't happened in the urban core. 

"I'm glad the worst has not happened," she said.

Despite Atlanta's guidelines, Kemp's executive order holds legal weight. It provided the loophole for city restaurants and lounges to schedule boisterous dance parties last weekend – even though bars without restaurant licenses still have to remain closed.

Bottoms said she hopes Georgians will use good sense to curb the pandemic.  

"I expect people to see" crowds during summer, she said. "But I also expect people of good conscience to say, 'I’m going to think of somebody other than myself. And I’m not going to put my family and my friends at risk.'"

RELATED: VERIFY | 'Germ Bubbles' help control coronavirus exposure

The city health metrics would potentially allow looser rules in a few weeks. Those would include allowing the city to start accepting special event applications.  But that would require even more testing and contact tracing metrics – and more COVID-19 data trending further downward.

11Alive is focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. We want to keep you informed about the latest developments while ensuring that we deliver confirmed, factual information. 

We will track the most important coronavirus elements relating to Georgia on this page. Refresh often for new information. 

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