Georgia governor sues Atlanta over mask mandate, COVID restrictions

georgia governor Brian Kemp
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp is seen here during a tour of Piedmont Hospital, July 14, 2020. |

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and Attorney General Chris Carr filed a lawsuit against the city of Atlanta, seeking to block the state’s capital and largest city from imposing stricter coronavirus restrictions and mandating its residents to wear face masks in public.

The lawsuit comes a day after the governor issued an executive order laying out updated guidelines for businesses to follow as the effort to stop the spread of coronavirus continues. Notably, while the executive order “strongly” encourages people to wear face coverings “as practicable,” it also suspends municipalities from requiring “persons to wear face coverings, masks, face shields, or any other Personal Protective Equipment while in places of public accommodation or on public property ... to the extent that they are more restrictive than this Executive Order."

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms called the lawsuit “simply bizarre” and argued that the Republican governor is “putting politics over people,” according to the “Today” show.

“I don’t think it happenstance that this lawsuit came the day after Donald Trump visited Atlanta,” she said. “And I pointed out that he (Trump) was violating city law by not having on a mask at Atlanta’s Hartsfield–Jackson International Airport.”

Last week, Bottoms announced that her city would “return to phase I” of its reopening plan, citing a “surge of COVID-19 cases” and the “reckless” reopening of Georgia following the coronavirus lockdown as justifications for her decision. The Peach State previously made national headlines when it became one of the first states to reopen its economy after the coronavirus caused states to implement stay-at-home orders.

Bottoms’ decision to implement stricter coronavirus restrictions last week weighed heavily on Kemp’s decision to sue the city. Kemp took to Twitter to explain his rationale for filing the lawsuit.

“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,” he said.

On Friday, Kemp appeared on “The Dana Show” to elaborate further on what host Dana Loesch described as the “mask war.” During the interview, he doubled down on his opposition to the implementation of stricter coronavirus restrictions.

“To simply start jerking the rug out from under … dine-in restaurants and … telling people to shelter in place, I mean, that hurts small business people, it hurts working Georgians, it’s going to hurt our tax dollars and collections and our revenue, which in turn … hurts all the programs that you need in a crisis like this,” he said.

“When somebody’s going to start … shutting businesses down, I’m just not going to stand idly by and let that happen. We have too much at stake. Government can’t ask people to stay home, sit in their living room, while they lose their business, not be able to feed their family.”

Public figures have had mixed reactions to the lawsuit as well as Kemp’s executive order prohibiting local jurisdictions from mandating the use of masks. Conservative commentator Ann Coulter indicated her support for Kemp’s decision to overrule all municipal mask mandates by describing the Georgia governor as a “hero.”

Former Deputy Labor Secretary Chris Lu, who served in the Obama administration, slammed Kemp for his “entirely new level of negligence” and agreed with Savannah Mayor Van Johnson that the governor “doesn’t give a damn about us.”

Bottoms stated that “at the end of the day, this is about saving lives” and that the governor had “overstepped his bounds.”

Georgia has recorded over 3,100 people COVID-19 deaths.

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