Bottoms: Stay home so others ‘have an opportunity to simply live’

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms urged city residents and others across the country Saturday to heed social isolation and stay-at-home orders amid the coronavirus outbreak “so that people can have an opportunity to simply live.”

Bottoms, in an interview with Victor Blackwell on CNN, made an impassioned plea not only to her city but to people in other parts of the country to take the outbreak seriously, even if they do not have cases of the virus in their communities. Though parts of the state of Georgia do not have confirmed cases, she said, “we can see where this is headed.”

Bottoms issued a stay-at-home order for Atlanta residents earlier this week, and many other Georgia cities have issued similar directives to mitigate the virus’ spread. Gov. Brian Kemp has closed schools, ordered most state workers to work from home and urged Georgians to socially distance, though he has not instituted a statewide shelter-in-place order.

>>Complete coverage: Coronavirus in Georgia

Bottoms said she knows of many who are ill and said a college roommate’s mother is intubated at an Atlanta hospital.

“Even for as grim as the statistics look, people need to understand that it is happening right in our families, it’s happening in our communities and it’s just a matter of days,” Bottoms said. “This is not to alarm people, but it is to stress to people that this is real. The thing we can do, Victor, is stay at home.

“We are not asking people to pick up arms and go to war, people aren’t fleeing famine, we’re asking you to stay at home,” she said. “Stay in the comfort of your home. It’s a simple request so that people can have an opportunity to simply live.”

The Georgia Department of Public Health reported Saturday at noon, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus is now 2,366 statewide. The death toll, meanwhile, grew to 69 from 65 on Friday. 

Bottoms said many medical workers, including friends of hers, are afraid. In normal times, the services of the city’s hospitals and ICU beds “are at a premium,” Bottoms said, and COVID-19 is putting strain on the city’s health care network.

“Just a few days ago, the anecdotal information I received was that our major hospital, Grady (Memorial) Hospital, was at about 90 percent capacity,” she said. “What people have to realize is strokes don’t stop, diabetes and these things that send people into our emergency rooms, these things continue.”

Bottoms said models predict the city will exceed its hospital capacity on May 3. Asked what Atlanta is doing to increase hospital capacity, Bottoms said she is working with the state and Kemp’s office to scout locations to create more hospital beds.

On Friday, Bottoms amended parts of her executive order, adding exceptions for the operations of landscapers and print shops and clarifying that package stores, bike shops and the insurance industry also are exempt.

A spokesman for Bottoms said Saturday the changes to the executive order are not to be seen as relaxations of the order but serve to clarify after concerns were raised by the public. For instance, hospitals, businesses and government continue to need the services of print shops and many package stores sell products beyond alcoholic beverages.

The inclusion of landscaping is intended to help people suffering from allergy season.

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