Atlanta Latest City to Reinstate Mask Mandate, a Second Violation Could Lead to $50 Fine

Atlanta residents will again need to wear masks indoors after Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms reinstated the city's mandate.

Under the mandate, everyone needs to wear a mask inside stores and other businesses. People who violate the rule twice could be fined $50.

Bottoms said she decided to re-implement the mandate, which was only removed a month ago, due to a recent rise in COVID-19 cases across the state. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is headquartered in Atlanta, also advised her on the decision.

Almost 1,250 people were hospitalized in Georgia with the virus as of Tuesday, a 50 percent increase since the end of last month when the state reported only 824 hospitalizations.

The Mayo Clinic's Georgia COVID-19 statistics show that while the rate of positive tests decreased from late October to early November from 5.5 percent to 3.3 percent, the number began to spike up again by early December and now stands at 6.1 percent.

According to the CDC, over 90 percent of new infections in the southeastern U.S. are due to the Omicron variant. Bottoms was taking no chances.

"The CDC has designated Fulton and DeKalb counties as areas of high transmission for the COVID-19 virus," she said in a statement. "Given this recent surge across the Atlanta area, and based upon the counsel from public health professionals, I am reinstating the citywide mask mandate."

Keisha Lance Bottoms, Atlanta, mayor
Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced Tuesday she would reinstate the city's mask mandate after a surge in COVID-19 cases. Above, Bottoms attends the Macy's Lenox Square 74th Great Tree Lighting at Macy's Lenox Square on Nov. 18 in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Marcus Ingram/Getty Images

The nearly 1,250 patients hospitalized statewide Tuesday with the respiratory illness was well below the record of roughly 6,000 that was reached in early September at the peak of Georgia's fourth surge of virus cases. But it's well above the recent low of 824 patients recorded on Nov. 22. Hospital officials in the state are expecting patient counts to rise with the Omicron variant.

Much about the Omicron coronavirus variant remains unknown, including whether it causes more or less severe illness. Scientists say Omicron spreads even easier than other coronavirus strains, including Delta.

Early studies suggest the vaccinated will need a booster shot for the best chance at preventing an Omicron infection. But even without the extra dose, experts say vaccination still should offer strong protection against severe illness and death.

Bottoms' latest mask requirement came after Atlanta mayor-elect Andre Dickens said a rapid test Monday showed he had COVID-19. Dickens, who said he was fully vaccinated, was isolating, although he reported feeling well and having mild symptoms.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.