ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) -- Georgia Governor Brian Kemp on Thursday announced that he and Attorney General Chris Carr have filed a lawsuit against Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and City Council.
The filing was announced on the heels of Gov. Kemp issuing an executive order that suspended all city and county mask mandates; this includes a mask mandate issued by Mayor Bottoms. Mayor Bottoms also rolled back the city's reopening from Phase 2 to Phase 1 as Fulton County continues to see a surge in new COVID-19 cases.
.@GovKemp’s spokesperson says he’s against mask mandates because they’re not enforceable. She points out, correctly, that he’s been encouraging Georgians to wear masks for months. He has repeatedly said he trusts Georgians to “do the right thing.” @cbs46 https://t.co/f1gSwwjHAn— Rick Folbaum (@RickFolbaum) July 16, 2020
By Thursday afternoon that state reported a total of 131,275 confirmed cases, 14,346 hospitalizations, and 3,104 deaths.
Throughout the pandemic the two Georgia political figures have clashed on the state's handing of the current health crisis, including its time frame for reopening, and safety guidelines that have made masks in public places optional. With competing orders on the state and local level, the governor says the lawsuit is for the benefit of Georgia's business owners trying to stay afloat.
“This lawsuit is on behalf of the Atlanta business owners and their hardworking employees who are struggling to survive during these difficult times. These men and women are doing their very best to put food on the table for their families while local elected officials shutter businesses and undermine economic growth," said Kemp. "Just like sending in the Georgia National Guard to protect those living in our capital city from crime and violence, I refuse to sit back and watch as disastrous policies threaten the lives and livelihoods of our citizens. We will fight to stop these reckless actions and put people over pandemic politics.”
3104 Georgians have died and I and my family are amongst the 106k who have tested positive for COVID-19. Meanwhile, I have been sued by @GovKemp for a mask mandate. A better use of tax payer money would be to expand testing and contact tracing. #ATLStrong pic.twitter.com/z4hpTrCS1B— Keisha Lance Bottoms (@KeishaBottoms) July 16, 2020
Mayor Bottoms is not alone when it comes issuing masks requirements for the public. Other metro cities including East Point, College Park, Brookhaven, Doraville and others like tourist city Savannah each issued similar mandates.
Yet a lawsuit has only been brought against Atlanta's city leaders.
"The governor's lawsuit makes us all more unsafe by further politicizing a life or death public health issue. The sad truth is that people who refuse to wear masks will point to his lawsuit as a justification for their unsafe behavior. I am extremely disappointed in his actions," said Doraville Mayor Joseph Geierman.
It is officially official. Governor Kemp does not give a damn about us. Every man and woman for himself/herself. Ignore the science and survive the best you can.In #Savannah, we will continue to keep the faith and follow the science. Masks will continue to be available!— Mayor Van Johnson (@MayorJohnsonSAV) July 16, 2020
With COVID-19 cases surging in Georgia, the mayor of Athens-Clarke County Kelly Girtz says it's essential to let science lead the way.
“We know very much that droplet and aerosol transmission is dangerous and can be made less dangerous with use of mask. I'm in constant contact and we believe the local orders will stand and we can fight this,” said Girtz.
Mayor Bottoms continued to stand firm on her decision to require Atlanta residents wear masks in public despite the lawsuit.
"If being sued by the state is what it takes to save lives in Atlanta, then we will see them in court," said the mayor.
The State of Georgia continues to urge citizens to wear masks. This lawsuit is about the rule of law. https://t.co/yRSQZYDtgo— GA AG Chris Carr (@Georgia_AG) July 16, 2020
Governor Kemp is expected to hold a briefing on the state's COVID-19 response Friday at the capitol.