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Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp Sues Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms Over Face Mask Order

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is taking Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the City Council to court to block the city's mask-wearing mandate.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is taking Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the City Council to court to block the city's mask-wearing mandate.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is suing the Atlanta City Council and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms following her efforts to require face masks in public places as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to skyrocket across the nation.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday, asserts that Kemp alone "leads the State of Georgia in its fight against the worldwide novel coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic" and adds he has the power "to suspend municipal orders that are contradictory to any state law or to his executive orders."

"As the Mayor of the City of Atlanta, Mayor Bottoms does not have the legal authority to modify, change or ignore Governor Kemp's executive orders," the document says.

The suit follows an order this week in which Kemp forbade municipal officials from setting mandatory face-covering policies.

"This lawsuit is on behalf of the Atlanta business owners and their hardworking employees who are struggling to survive during these difficult times," Kemp tweeted.

The lengthy thread went on to link the wearing of face coverings to loss of income.

"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," Kemp wrote.

Bottoms also took to Twitter to addressthe governor's legal challenge, citing statistics related to the coronavirus in Georgia.

"3104 Georgians have died and I and my family are amongst the 106k who have tested positive for COVID-19," she wrote, adding that "a better use of tax payer money would be to expand testing and contact tracing."

During a news conference earlier Thursday, Bottoms defended her executive order issued on July 8. In addition to requiring face coverings, it also prohibits the gathering of more than 10 people in public spaces.

Bottoms disputed Kemp's assertion that the mandate is "unenforceable."

"Our policies are enforceable and they stand," she said.

Other Georgia cities have passed similar measures in recent weeks, including Savannah. Savannah Mayor Van Johnson said he was alarmed by the rising case numbers in his city and by the governor's actions.

"It is officially official. Governor Kemp does not give a damn about us," Johnson saidon Twitter on Wednesday night. "Every man and woman for himself/herself. Ignore the science and survive the best you can."

On Thursday, Bottoms noted that the nation's leading health experts recommend wearing masks to curb the spread of the highly contagious virus.

"Public health experts overwhelmingly agree that wearing a face covering helps slow the spread of this sometimes deadly virus," she said, adding, "It's a simple thing to do."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.