On Monday night, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued an executive order mandating all residents “stay at home” in response to the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus.
At first blush, the order might seem like a dramatic escalation of social distancing efforts, an attempt to shut Atlantans in their homes until COVID-19, the disease carried by the virus, is safely contained.
The mandate, however, isn’t a total lockdown. And it’s not a drastic shift from the way things have been since the mayor previously shuttered “all bars and nightclubs that do not serve food, gyms and fitness centers, movie theaters, live performance venues, bowling alleys, and arcades, and private social clubs.”
The new decree largely urges folks to stay at home unless they need groceries or work an “essential” job that prohibits them from working remotely.
Thank you @BrianKempGA for the updated state guidelines. Based upon our density & specific needs/concerns in Atlanta, I’ve signed a 14 day Stay at Home Order. As of now, this does not include essential businesses, parks, @AtlantaBeltLine & restaurants serving takeout. pic.twitter.com/c2rw5eWjmH— Keisha Lance Bottoms (@KeishaBottoms) March 24, 2020
According to a tweet by Bottoms, the order makes and exception for the Atlanta Beltline, city parks, and restaurants serving takeout.
So what’s changed?
No longer can you munch with friends at a restaurant’s outdoor patio after grabbing grub from a drive-thru window or takeout counter.
“All public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a single household or living unit are prohibited,” the order says.
You can, however, leave home for medical reasons or to exercise—sans gym, of course—meaning walks around the block and Beltline bike rides are still kosher. (Provided that distancing recommendations are observed).
The order also allows people to buy supplies, such as food or cleaning products, for others, which has become a relatively common practice among some Atlanta communities.
Only people conducting “essential businesses” are exempt from the terms of the order.
Those include healthcare professionals, grocery store and farmers market employees, food service workers, farmers, first responders, journalists, gas station attendants, bank tellers, hardware store staff, public infrastructure maintenance teams, educators, and legal professionals.
Some critics on social media, though, have said the mayor’s order doesn’t go far enough, and that the city needs to ensure folks stop crowding on the Beltline and at public parks, especially on weekends, in order to truly combat the spread of the virus.
Bottoms has said those privileges could be on the chopping block if Atlantans continue to disregard social distancing suggestions.
The mayor’s move also comes on the heels of an order by Gov. Brian Kemp that bans large gatherings and mandates that “medically fragile” Georgians shelter in place.
In an opinion piece penned last night, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial board said that “Kemp can—and must—do more,” while commending Bottoms for being more decisive.