Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told the Atlanta City Council during her weekly COVID-19 briefing May 21 that the city was following a five-phase reopening plan outlined in a report issued by her advisory committee.
The mayor said the city is already in phase one of the reopening, which encourages residents to stay at home, social distancing, and using takeout and delivery at restaurants. Phase one also includes monitoring of statistics and following a recommended 14-day downward trend for new cases, deaths, and hospitalizations.
“The reopening of Atlanta will be informed and driven by data,” Bottoms said.
Bottoms said there was concern about the integrity of the COVID-19 data being reported by the Georgia Department of Public Health after a series of high-profile errors inflated or lowered various statistics. She said the city was working with John Hopkins University to create a dashboard on the ATLSTRONG.org website that would include figures and insights.
Bottoms said she believed the city might be able to enter the second phase of the reopening plan as early as next week. The “easing phase” would require proven metrics on diagnostic testing and contact tracing. The second phase would also allow small, private gatherings of 10 people with social distancing.
Bottoms said city recreation usage such as single tennis matches and being able to swim laps in city swimming pools is being reviewed now. There’s also discussion about opening Camp Best Friends for children in July with small groups and social distancing.
As for the reopening of City Hall, Bottoms said she was still in no rush and was resisting pressure to do so. Bottoms said she was worried that reopening City Hall would have an impact on communities of color and medically fragile who work and do business there. “We may not reopen until July, but we are monitoring the situation weekly,” she said.
Another issue which took up part of the briefing was the issue of so-called waterboys – young people selling bottled water to make extra money at intersections and interstate off-ramps.
Councilmember Marci Collier Overstreet said she had received numerous complaints from constituents about aggressive young people tapping on windows, littering and taking crates or carts from supermarkets. Councilmember Cleta Winslow said she had heard that one of young people was threatened with a gun and said police should at least make them get off interstate ramps.
Bottoms said she had discussed the “waterboys” issue with Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields and both agreed the young people should not be arrested simply for selling water. The police were not making arrests for selling water unless there was aggressive behavior, combativeness or putting themselves or motorists in danger.
“I’ve encountered these young people frequently and most are usually very polite, but some are very aggressive,” Bottoms said, noting that she’d had discussions about possibly creating a city program to channel the “entrepreneurial spirit” of the young people in a safer way.