Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp sued Thursday to overturn the mask mandate issued by Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms in order to halt the spread of the coronavirus.
The suit comes a day after Democratic mayors in cities across Georgia said that they would defy the governor’s executive order, which barred cities from mandating masks for those out in public, Politico reported.
“I’m not afraid of the city being sued,” Bottoms said yesterday, according to Politico.
After Kemp’s office filed the suit, he tweeted that “this lawsuit is on behalf of Atlanta business owners and their hardworking employees who are struggling to survive during these difficult times.”
“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,” he added.
Critics immediately accused Kemp of being hypocritical, alleging that the suit was politically motivated, Politico reported.
Atlanta is one of over a dozen cities that have enacted mandatory mask-wearing. Savannah, Athens and Columbus have each adopted their own orders, according to WSB Atlanta.
The suit comes as Georgia, which was one of the first states to reopen, has seen confirmed cases surge over recent days.
“It’s my belief that the city of Atlanta still has the appropriate standing to mandate masks,” Bottoms said during a news conference Thursday.
Savannah Mayor Van Johnson echoed Bottoms’ remarks and said on MSNBC Thursday that he was “flabbergasted” when he learned of Kemp’s lawsuit.
“On one hand we’re fighting COVID. On the other hand we’re fighting our governor,” he said, later tweeting that Kemp “doesn’t give a damn” about his constituents.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Thursday that local governments were responsible for dictating their own mask policies, and said that the president was not considering a nationwide mask mandate, according to Politico.
Kemp’s executive order stands in stark opposition to those of other governors across the south. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, both Republicans, issued mask mandates earlier this month. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, the only Democratic governor in the deep south, issued one on July 6 in a press release.
Despite Kemp’s order, he still has urged Georgians to wear masks when out in public.
Georgia currently has over 131,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, and over 3,100 Georgians have died of the virus, according to a Johns Hopkins University database.