Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is reinstating a citywide indoor mask mandate as COVID-19 cases surge spurred on by the highly transmissible omicron variant. The mandate, which goes into effect December 21, also requires people to wear masks indoors at Atlanta bars and restaurants when not seated and actively engaged in eating or drinking.
After lifting the city’s indoor mask mandate in early November when cases were at one of the lowest points since the pandemic began, Bottoms moved Atlanta from the “green zone” back to the “yellow zone” on Tuesday afternoon. According to Atlanta’s color-coded system, implemented over the summer, COVID-19 cases must average 20 to 75 per day for the city to enter the green zone. Case counts in Atlanta are currently averaging between 76 and 249 per day.
“The CDC has designated Fulton and DeKalb counties as areas of high transmission for the COVID-19 virus,” a statement from the mayor reads. “Given this recent surge across the Atlanta area, and based upon the counsel from public health professionals, I am reinstating the citywide mask mandate.”
As with the previous mask mandate, fines of up to $50 will be imposed for individual noncompliance. The mandate also includes a temporary moratorium on residential evictions within City of Atlanta.
Despite this surge in cases due to the omicron variant, getting vaccinated and boosted six months following the second shot appears to keep most people from developing more serious COVID-19 infections and avoiding hospitalization. A combination of masking indoors in public and in crowds, proper ventilation, and vaccines and booster shots continue to be the best defense against substantial spread of COVID-19.
Following an announcement on Monday by incoming mayor Andre Dickens that he tested positive for COVID-19 and numerous temporary closures of Atlanta restaurants with staff members testing positive, East Atlanta Village restaurant Argosy is reinforcing its proof-of-vaccination policy.
In July, Argosy began requiring all diners to provide either proof of vaccination or a negative test result to dine at the restaurant. The move came as COVID-19 cases surged in Georgia due to the delta variant. But, as omicron toppled delta this week as the dominant variant in the U.S., Argosy will no longer accept a negative test result or a doctor’s note as other forms of proof. People must provide a physical or digital copy of their vaccine card and children under the vaccination age must remain masked when not seated with their parents.
When Argosy first announced its vaccine policy over the summer, Georgia congressperson and conspiracy theorist Marjorie Taylor Greene attacked the Atlanta restaurant on her personal Twitter account. Greene, who represents congressional district 14 in far northwest Georgia, referred to Argosy’s pro-vaccine policy as “segregation”, asking if Argosy would also screen people trying to enter for other diseases such as AIDS, meningitis, pink eye, hepatitis, and STDs. Other Atlanta restaurants followed Argosy’s lead, including Banshee, Java Lords, and City Winery.
Several sources tell Eater more Atlanta restaurants are considering instituting proof-of-vaccination policies due to this latest COVID-19 wave and the rapid spread of the omicron variant.
Read the full executive order from the Atlanta mayor below: