Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens ends city’s indoor mask mandate

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens on Wednesday, February 23, 2022. Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens on Wednesday, February 23, 2022. Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens announced Friday that effectively immediately he is ending the city’s indoor mask mandate after it has been in effect for nearly two years due to the pandemic.

The mayor’s office said in-person meetings will also begin again for public agencies affiliated with the city — such as Invest Atlanta, Atlanta Housing Authority and Atlanta Beltline, among others. Masks are still mandated at public meetings and programs in city buildings.

Dickens said in a statement Friday afternoon that the city can lift these coronavirus restrictions thanks to advances in vaccines, downward trends in cases, and the vigilance and resilience of the Atlanta community.

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“As we continue to rely on data and science, Atlanta remains forever grateful for our public health professionals, our healthcare workers and our frontline workers who continue to give their all so that we may begin this optimistic path toward our new normal,” Dickens said in a statement.

The mayor lifted Atlanta’s COVID restrictions shortly after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a new strategy on mask-wearing to allow most people to put away their masks in most indoor settings, including classrooms. Atlanta Public Schools also announced late Friday that it will pivot to a mask optional policy on March 1.

The mayor’s office said that if downtrend trends continue during the pandemic, Atlanta will also begin a phased process of resuming activities for seniors, young people, businesses and the community at city-owned buildings. The city has already updated City Hall’s HVAC and air circulation system to address airborne particles to improve air quality.

Dickens did not lift every restriction put in place by executive order. For instance, a moratorium still remains in effect on residential evictions and filings for housing units and developments sponsored or funded by Atlanta Housing Authority, Atlanta Beltline, Fulton County/City of Atlanta Land Bank Authority, Invest Atlanta, Partners for Home and the city of Atlanta’s Department of Grants and Community Development.

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Former Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued a mask mandate in July 2020 in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Her executive order applied to private businesses like restaurants, salons and grocery stores, as well as public property.

Bottoms briefly lifted the mandate in November before reinstating it in December due to the omicron variant. Dickens said last year that he wanted to fully reopen City Hall on day one as mayor, but he delayed that action and extended the restrictions amid rising COVID cases.

The Atlanta City Council plans to hold its first in-person meeting at City Hall in over two years on March 7, according to an internal memo obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday.

Currently, 59% of Fulton County residents, 58% of DeKalb County residents, 55% of Atlanta residents and 55% of Georgians are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the mayor’s office. Additionally, 76% of city employees are vaccinated, and the mayor’s office said the city will continue to increase its vaccination numbers.