ATLANTA — A memorial wall to victims of the coronavirus pandemic called "Loved Ones, Not Numbers" will be unveiled tonight in Atlanta.
The wall will feature 5,000 broken hearts symbolizing the more than 5,000 Georgians who have died so far from COVID-19, according to organizers.
The unveiling will take place at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights downtown at 7:30 p.m. before a march to the State Capitol where demonstrators will hold a candlelight vigil.
The memorial was organized by the Georgia Coalition 2 Save Lives. Leaders of the group called for statewide mask mandates on Thursday, in an online news conference ahead of the march later.
Jana Johnson-Davis, an educator and City Schools of Decatur Board of Education member, said the goal of the memorial was to "put names and faces to the numbers."
"So many of our lawmakers have just written off these deaths as statistics, but we know that they are mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers," she said. "We know that these deaths were preventable and more deaths can be prevented if the governor issues an ordinance statewide for mandatory masks."
Clare Schexnyder, another member of the group, echoed that, saying "a real empathetic leader would mandate mask-wearing across the state to save lives" and "our governor should not equate economic number with fighting a disease."
State Rep. William Boddie said the state is "going through a serious pandemic and we need leadership at the top - i.e. the governor - to start to be more aggressive."
"We can't wish COVID-19 away, we can't hope COVID-19 away, and we can't just encourage mask-wearing thinking we're gonna curb COVID-19 in the state of Georgia," Rep. Boddie said.