ATLANTA — In the wake of another record for new coronavirus cases in a single-day reported across the state of Georgia, the City of Atlanta has rolled back to a Phase I status, the mayor's office confirmed. The rollback is effective immediately.
On Friday, nearly 4,500 new cases of COVID-19 were reported over the previous day. An additional 331 people were hospitalized in Georgia over the previous day and 35 more people died from the coronavirus.
Under Phase I recovery conditions, people in the city are asked to stay at home except for essential trips, wear face coverings in public, practice frequent hand-washing and to follow social distancing where practical.
Restaurants are asked to limit business to only handle to-go and delivery orders. Other businesses are asked to continue to practice teleworking.
Frequent cleaning of public and high-touch areas should be taking place.
Non-essential city facilities will remain closed. There will be a moratorium on special event applications within the city limits.
The city will continue communications with authorities in order to monitor public health metrics.
Under the city's original Phase I condition, there would be no movement into any sort of easing of conditions until and unless there was a consistent decrease over a 14-day span of new COVID-19 cases, COVID hospitalizations and percentage of positive COVID tests.
In addition, there would be no movement from a Phase I condition while the percentage of hospital and critical care capacity remains above 50 percent.
Georgia was one of the first states to begin reopening its businesses following its prolonged shelter-in-place orders. Gov. Brian Kemp began the reopening in late May.
Since the staged reopening began, an increase in coronavirus cases have been reported over many areas of the state.
Kemp's office said that the mayor's order is "merely guidance - both non-binding and legally unenforceable."
"As clearly stated in the Governor's executive order, no local action can be more or less restrictive, and that rule applies statewide," Kemp's office said in a statement Friday evening. "Once again, if the Mayor actually wants to flatten the curve in Atlanta, she should start enforcing state restrictions, which she has failed to do. We ask citizens and businesses alike to comply with the terms of the Governor's order, which was crafted in conjunction with state public health officials. These common-sense measures will help protect the lives and livelihoods of all Georgians."
In recent days, some cities, including Atlanta, have enacted mask mandates, requiring people to wear face coverings when out in public, though Gov. Kemp has resisted calls to enact a public mask requirement statewide.
Other states, including Florida, California, Texas, and Arizona have seen marked increases in COVID-19 cases. In some areas of those states, calls for rollbacks of reopening plans or renewed shelter in place orders have been discussed in recent days.
For public health experts like Dr. Harry Heiman of Georgia State University's School of Public Health, the increases in cases prove the state needs to pause its reopening plan and dial it back.
"It’s as though our house is on fire, and the government, and the governor is standing by hoping that the fire will go out by itself," he said. "Based on what we know about the way this virus works, where it spreads and where it spreads the most, we know it’s in indoor places. ... Does that mean everything needs to shut down? No. But it absolutely means that we need to close down bars, and nightclubs, we need to temporarily shut down inside dining. And we need to absolutely make masks mandatory."
Governor Kemp’s office did not respond Friday to 11Alive's request for comment when we asked if he will consider reversing any part of the reopening in light of the increasing cases.
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.
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