It appears Atlanta will soon join Savannah, East Point, and Athens in requiring masks in public within the city limits. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is expected to sign a mandatory mask ordinance on Wednesday afternoon, the AJC reports. No details have been provided on what Atlanta’s mask mandate might entail. The cities of South Fulton, Fairburn, College Park, and Hapeville are also considering a similar ordinance.
Bottoms is currently quarantining at home after she and other family members tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week.
The move comes following several days of record-breaking numbers in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations throughout the state likely sparked by Georgia’s aggressive reopening. For example, there are currently no capacity limits inside restaurants. Gov. Brian Kemp has called a statewide mask mandate a “bridge too far,” opting instead to embark on a publicity tour prior to the Fourth of July holiday weekend encouraging residents to don a mask whenever possible.
Savannah became the first city in Georgia to require masks in public. Violators are subject to a $500 fine. The city of East Point, southwest of Atlanta, just passed its mask ordinance on Monday, with violators risking a $75 fine there. Then, on Tuesday evening, the city of Athens (home to the University of Georgia) unanimously passed a public mask mandate. Violators in Athens could face fines of up to $100. Beginning July 15, all schools and institutions within the University System of Georgia will require people to wear face coverings inside buildings when social distancing isn’t possible.
The governor’s emergency powers prevent local municipalities from enacting more severe COVID-19 measures. It’s unclear if Kemp plans to block or challenge these mask ordinances. Currently, 22 states require the public to wear masks.
Several Atlanta-area restaurants are choosing to temporarily close after learning employees have tested positive for the virus. Georgia restaurants and businesses are not bound by law to disclose to the public when a member of staff tests positive for COVID-19 and are not mandated by the state or Georgia Department of Health to close. Closing is voluntary.
While most people employed in white-collar professions can safely work from home during the ongoing pandemic, nearly 70 percent of people working in public-facing, essential businesses, like restaurants and grocery stores, have little choice but to go into work every day.
“Everyone I know working in restaurants right now is scared. We have no choice but to go to work every day,” a server working at a Poncey-Highland restaurant told Eater Atlanta recently. “It would be really nice if people wore masks when they came into the restaurant. It would be nice if people wore masks when they speak to us, even if you just took it back up to your ear when we come by to check on your table. Just wearing a mask would alleviate so much anxiety for us.”
West Egg Cafe, 8ARM, Twisted Soul Cookhouse and Pours, 97 Estoria, Le Petit Marche, Sublime Doughnuts, Hodgepodge Coffeehouse, Little’s Food Store, and breweries such as Monday Night Brewing are among the Atlanta establishments requiring patrons to wear masks inside prior to receiving their food and drinks or when moving about the dining room.
Eater will provide an update on Atlanta’s mandate when more details become available, including whether the mask ordinance requires facing coverings worn inside businesses and restaurants.
Stay home if sick. Check the Georgia Department of Public Health website for guidance and updates on the latest number of reported COVID-19 cases.