Atlanta

Atlanta mayor asks for more control of vaccine rollout, other COVID-19 aide in White House meeting

ATLANTA — Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms made a number of city-specific COVID relief requests during a White House meeting Friday, with many involving more local control over vaccine distribution.

Bottoms was a part of small, bipartisan group of local and state leaders invited to Washington. Speaking with local reporters following the COVID relief round, Bottoms said the mayors and governors had similar requests and concerns for President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Bottoms began with a request that vaccines be allocated directly to cities.

“If we were to get that allocation, you’d be able to control that distribution?” asked Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr.

“And even if it’s more allocation given directly to our community health centers, my request is that at the local level, we have significant input in how it’s allocated because every community is different,” said Bottoms.

Georgia is currently in the 1 A-plus eligibility category, meaning health care workers, first responders, nursing home residents and people 65 and older are the only people that state-approved providers should be vaccinating.

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Anything else would be a violation of provider agreements and could lead to sanctions like a suspension in vaccine delivery. The state has already opened at least two investigations into provider vaccine practices, in one case suspending a local medical provider’s supply because they’d vaccinated school system employees.

State leaders, including Gov. Brian Kemp and Dr. Kathleen Toomey, have emphasized they’re servicing the most vulnerable population first, until supply can catch up with current demand. Some local leaders, including Bottoms, have argued the current model is not “one-size fits all.”

“We know Atlanta Public Schools alone has 10,000 teachers and staff who need to be vaccinated,” Bottoms said Friday. “We’re already vaccinating our public safety personnel, but we also have sanitation workers and other workers who need to be vaccinated. Morehouse School of Medicine School alone has a waiting list of over six thousand people.”

Bottoms also asked the administration to consider more granular data requirements for the state. In other words, taking a closer look at exactly who is getting vaccinated within the City of Atlanta. Current data models are county-level, and Bottoms said the city-specific data is needed to ensure equitable distribution.

“Although there have been 1.3 million vaccines distributed in Fulton County, I don’t know if that’s on the Westside of Atlanta or if that’s in Alpharetta,” Bottoms said. “I don’t know.”

Bottoms also requested direct CARES ACT funding for the city and mental health care money as she made a direct correlation to a rise in pandemic-era violence. When asked about upcoming plans for tens of thousands to come into the city for this weekend’s national cheerleading competition at the Georgia World Congress Center and an NBA All-Star game, Bottoms acknowledged concern. She said the city is still in low-level opening stages, and she’s spoken with event organizers about COVID protocols. Ultimately, there are other guidelines that dictate opening, she said.

“The state has a different set of rules that we all must abide by, and part of that from the state level means our state is open,” Bottoms said.

Local and state leaders did not leave the two-hour White House meeting with a timeline for a response to their requests, but Bottoms said Atlanta’s mere invitation was a good sign, especially along with the administration’s plans for increased vaccine production and distribution by July.

“What was most encouraging is that so much has already been contemplated, so where we left off is that the conversations and discussions will continue,” Bottoms said. “They will follow up with us individually… but by and large we’re all in agreement about what our states and cities need.”