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Crowds gathering around metro Atlanta in national spotlight amid pandemic

Crowds packed some parks and other places sending people across the nation firing off on social media about the decisions people were making.

ATLANTA — While states continue to slowly roll out their reopening plans amid the COVID-19 pandemic, all eyes continue to be on Georgia as it was one of the first places to begin reopening businesses a little more than a week ago.

The decision inevitably put Atlanta in the spotlight, even more so over the weekend after Gov. Brian Kemp's shelter-in-place order ended for most Georgians. 

Crowds packed some parks and other places sending people across the nation firing off on social media about the decisions people were making - with many not wearing masks or social distancing. 

Over the weekend, people were spotted at Piedmont Park enjoying warm sun. This was being talked about Elsewhere in Atlanta, new Air Jordan 5 "Fire Red" Sneakers caused a massive crowd at the Greenbriar Mall where shoe collectors lined up from the entrance of Jimmy Jazz all the way to the outside the mall itself.

These instances and others made national headlines, with the New York Post publishing an article, BET doing the same, and other outlets reporting the crowds. The news caught people's attention as people shared the stories online.

The controversy has been a topic on TV and radio shows as well.

Even days before the shelter-in-place order ended, Rapper Ja Rule tweeted his frustrations.

"Very disappointing to see the footage of ppl in Atlanta not social distancing not wearing mask and it’s mostly my ppl... so I guess hanging out is more important than life I’m confused and sad ppl are going to DIE...," he said.

It was a different sight on Sunday as many places seemed to have fewer crowds  just a day later.

And on Monday, Lenox Square was a trending topic on social media as the doors reopened for the first time since March. While there were shoppers out, 11Alive's Maura Sirianni saw most people following social distancing guidelines and wearing masks.

Although the shelter-in-place order has expired for most people in the state, health experts and officials are still encouraging people to follow guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevent to help slow the spread of COVID-19. 

In a statement from Gov. Brian Kemp's office on Monday, a spokesperson told 11Alive that "Georgia State Patrol has dispatched officers to complaints of non-compliance across the state. Over the weekend, they did not receive any complaints about Piedmont Park, Greenbriar Mall, Lenox Mall, or the Mall West End.," the statement reads.

"Georgia State Patrol promptly responds to complaints when they get them. The health and well-being of Georgians are our top priorities, and law enforcement officers are working day and night to keep people safe,"  the statement said.

"There are communities across the Peach State with law enforcement working hard to ensure compliance with the Governor’s orders. But they should not be in this fight alone. People and business owners also have responsibilities, the spokesperson said. "To mitigate the spread of coronavirus, we urge people to follow social distancing rules, wear masks in public if possible, and protect their fellow Georgians."

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has been vocal about her stance against the disapproval of large crowds. A spokesperson from her office released a statement on Monday.

"While the Mayor is disappointed to see a few isolated incidents of gatherings which seemingly do not adhere to social distancing guidelines, through APD’s regular patrols, we have been able to inform those who are not in compliance of the guidelines—and most have cooperated and disbanded," the statement reads.

"The Mayor and her senior leadership continue to explore administrative and legal options within the City’s authority and will adjust policies—if necessary—accordingly based on the counsel of medical professionals and members of her Advisory Council to reopen Atlanta"

In the meantime, the conversations about people disobeying social distancing guidelines continue while officials hope people will heed to the advice that's already been provided as an attempt to keep everyone safe. 

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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