At a press conference Tuesday morning about the rise of COVID and crime in Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms was joined by Dr. Carlos del Rio, an infectious disease expert at Grady Hospital and Emory Professor.

This comes one week after Mayor Bottoms reinstated a citywide indoor mask mandate.

Atlanta had been in phase four of the city’s five phase reopening plan, after the recent surge in cases the city has returned to phase three.

Phase three guidelines include limited trips outside, wearing face coverings in public, frequent hand washing and social distancing for individuals. 

“We are very close to going back to phase two,” Bottoms said Tuesday.

According to the city’s guidelines, Atlanta will revert to phase one or two if there is a sustained increase in new COVID cases or the hospital/critical care capacity falls below 50 percent.

The CDC’s COVID Data Tracker shows that in the last seven days Fulton County has seen a 75% increase in new COVID cases and a 90% increase in hospitalizations due to COVID.

Across the country, cases of coronavirus are spiking due to the rise of the delta variant. Every county in the Metro-Atlanta region has been designated a high transmission area by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

Dr. del Rio urged all residents aged 12 and older to get vaccinated, noting that unvaccinated people are at a much higher risk for serious illness due to COVID.

“We’re seeing an increase in hospitalizations across the state. 97% of hospitalized patients have not been vaccinated,” del Rio said. “It is really the vaccines that will protect you guys from getting hospitalized and dying.”

Though Atlanta’s vaccination rate is higher than the state of Georgia’s, according to del Rio both are behind the nationwide rate of 50%, leaving those ineligible for the vaccine vulnerable.

Registered nurse Nikki Hollinger cleans up a room as a body of a COVID-19 victim lies in a body bag labeled with stickers at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in the Mission Hills section of Los Angeles, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)