ATLANTA — Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has resisted calls from members of the Atlanta City Council to ramp up enforcement of social distancing guidelines on the BeltLine and in city parks.
In a conference call Monday, one councilman pleaded with Bottoms to close the BeltLine, which was a magnet for visitors during last weekend's warm spring weather.
That was in spite of health recommendations urging people to keep a social distance of six feet or more in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Mayor Bottoms says she saw it herself on a long drive through the city Monday on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
"It’s clear the (health) messaging is still not resonating with many people," Bottoms told members of the city council.
The mayor has issued a stay-at-home order for city residents but had specifically exempted visitors to the Atlanta BeltLine and the city's parks.
Atlanta City Councilman Michael Julian Bond asked the mayor to do more.
“I just want to be on the record to implore you to close the trails, close the parks and if you can, restrict people being in stores," Bond said. "I implore you to do that."
Bond spoke with 11Alive News afterward.
“If the city were to limit the access to these parks and trails it would send a definite message to the community that this is a serious pandemic,” Bond said in the interview.
Bond added that his mother’s first cousin, Nancy Finney, died unexpectedly from COVID-19 Monday.
Bottoms said her experts have told her shutting down the city's parks and the BeltLine would not be effective. City Councilman Dustin Hillis also suggested a more aggressive approach.
“Maybe some enhanced enforcement is the next step,” Hillis told the mayor. “Maybe not a complete closure, but we just hope … to get this drilled into people’s heads, so to speak.”
The mayor did not rule out any adjustments in the city’s emergency policies and predicted that the stay-at-home order would extend beyond its current April 6 expiration date.
Bottoms told councilmembers that city employees doing essential work will receive $500 monthly bonuses during the emergency.
Those workers include sanitation, public safety, water treatment and others.
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