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Atlanta mask order draws praise from some officials, businesses

Aleta Mills-Stubin, left, and her son Marcus Stubin, center, wear masks as they ride their bicycles along the Atlanta BeltLine Eastside trail in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward community, Thursday, July 9, 2020. Aleta says she and her son wear a mask each time they use the BeltLine. (ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Aleta Mills-Stubin, left, and her son Marcus Stubin, center, wear masks as they ride their bicycles along the Atlanta BeltLine Eastside trail in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward community, Thursday, July 9, 2020. Aleta says she and her son wear a mask each time they use the BeltLine. (ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

The day after Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms required masks in public to slow the spread of COVID-19, some elected officials, residents, and owners of businesses vulnerable to the virus voiced support for her action.

“I think she is doing the right thing,” said Atlanta Councilwoman Carla Smith, a registered nurse. “You are wearing a mask to keep other people safe.”

The mayor's order, delivered late Wednesday night, is at odds with Republican Brain Kemp who on Thursday said mandates issued by Bottoms and leaders of other Georgia cities are "unenforceable."

However, Kemp stopped short of threatening legal action to block them.

During an editorial board meeting with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday, Bottoms said she has the authority to enforce the mask mandate the way any other city law is enforced.

Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore said she supported the order. She characterized the move as a strong motivator for residents.


READ | Kemp's office: Mask mandates in Georgia are 'unenforceable'


“At this point it seems to be the most effective way to reduce the spread,” Moore said.

Atlanta’s order mirrors similar ones issued recently in Savannah, Athens, Fairburn, Brookhaven and East Point.

However, not every government entity supports Atlanta’s action.

MARTA leaders said Thursday the transit agency will not enforce a mask requirement, instead they will educate passengers because CEO Jeffrey Parker told the MARTA Board he does not want to provoke confrontations between employees and passengers over what has become highly politicized.

“For reasons that perplex me, we’re so polarized about this issue of having to wear masks,” Parker told the board Thursday.

A brief survey of leaders in other metro Atlanta on Thursday cities found that many governments have discussed mask requirements.

Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul said Thursday that he and City Council members have debated mandating masks. He said he has a “directive” written up for the measure, but not all council members agree with such action.

Paul said he doesn’t want to require masks and then be at odds with Kemp.

Local business owners said they want to avoid all the politics and just get back to making money as safely as possible.

Thomas Morrison and other restaurateurs interviewed Thursday said they are pleased with Bottoms’ order because it gives them cover to do what they feel is right.


READ | A growing number of Georgia cities require masks over Kemp's objection


Morrison, bar manager at Guac y Margys, said they opened two years ago along the BeltLine to attract millennials with tacos and drinks, but now that clientele is giving them trouble because few are wearing masks.

“It’s been a concern and a big frustration because we’re trying to protect our customers and serve them drinks and food, but they’re not thinking about the reverse effects it has on us,” Morrison said.

He said it’s only gotten worse as business has picked up — at the same time as COVID-19 cases are spiking in Georgia.

It isn’t any easier when you have an established and popular restaurant like Lisa Spooner, co-owner of Home grown.

Patrons of the decade-old Reynoldstown brunch spot regularly wait 1.5 hours to cure a hangover with biscuits and gravy. Now? Spooner said their revenues have been cut in half. She said she can’t afford to turn people away.

The restaurant re-opened June 19 after being closed three months due to COVID-19. Since then, Spooner said she has gotten eye-rolls and sighs when she has asked people to please wear a mask inside, so she appreciate’s the mayor order.

“You’re looking for an adult to tell you what to do because we’re just business owners who decided to open a restaurant, and this is so above and beyond anything we can draw from our past experience about,” she said.

Staff writer Adrianne Murchison contributed to this story.

Credit: AJC

The order also prevents gatherings of more than 10 people on City of Atlanta property.

Credit: AJC