With the number of COVID-19 cases rising dramatically in Georgia and metro Atlanta over the past month, the city of Sandy Springs is scaling back its reopening plans in response to the pandemic.
“The health and safety of our residents and staff are our priority,” Mayor Rusty Paul said in a news release. “The upward trend in cases is concerning. We are in unchartered territory and must adjust course based on what health officials and the data tell us. Given what we know today, we feel it is prudent to look closely at activities where people tend to gather.”
According to the Georgia Department of Public Health’s website, the seven-day average for individuals testing positive for the virus in Fulton County has jumped from 114.9 June 18 to 321.9 July 1, the last day the state had final and not preliminary seven-day average data on COVID-19 cases.
As a result, Sandy Springs, which hosted its first in-person city council meeting since March on June 16 and planned to continue with in-person meetings, is going back to live-streaming its meetings starting with the next one July 21. The city’s July 22 planning commission meeting will be held in person and live-streamed to accommodate public hearings already advertised, but future council, planning commission and board of appeals meetings will only be live-streamed until further notice.
In his June 25 State of the City Address, Paul said the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center could remain closed through the end of the year due to the pandemic, but wasn’t yet sure if the city’s summer and fall outdoor concerts at the Heritage Green and City Green parks would go on as planned.
But in the July 15 release, the city announced it is also canceling its concerts and will delay hosting events in the center, with a decision coming later this year regarding reopening dates. In a July 15 interview regarding the city’s outdoor concerts and other events, Paul said the city opted to cancel the outdoor concerts through at least September out of health and safety concerns.
“Some of the (performers) we have scheduled need more advance notice, so we just decided we’re going to clear out all of the concerts and events the city was going to sponsor at least into the fall,” he said. “Then we’ll see where we are from there. It just doesn’t make sense to bring people together in large groups right now.
“… We’ll look at things in the fall, but right now, we suspect we’ll probably be at a minimal activity level until we get a vaccine, which hopefully will be at the end of the year. But we are planning a grand reopening of the campus in the spring of 2021 with a wide range of well-known groups and acts, so we’re working that right now.”
Paul also said the city council, at its July 21 meeting, will approve a resolution asking businesses that require both employees and customers to wear masks to inform the city, which plans to create a list of those businesses online as a source for residents and visitors.
“We’ve got a lot of angst about masks right now, and we want to create an information repository so citizens who want to go into an environment that is masks-only, they’ll have a resource for them,” he said.
Paul said June 25 Sandy Springs won’t mandate masks in public like the cities of Athens, Atlanta, Brookhaven and Savannah already have done, but is considering it based on residents’ requests.