Georgia governor sues Atlanta mayor over mask mandate

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WASHINGTON, July 16 (Xinhua) — The Republican governor of the U.S. state of Georgia on Thursday sued the mayor of Atlanta, a Democrat, over her mandate requiring city residents to wear masks in public, intensifying an intra-state partisan fight over how to handle the coronavirus pandemic.

Governor Brian Kemp and state Attorney General Chris Carr, also a Republican, sued Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the Atlantic City Council to block the mask mandate, claiming such an order put businesses in harm’s way and undermined the state’s economic growth.

“This lawsuit is on behalf of the Atlanta business owners and their hardworking employees who are struggling to survive during these difficult times,” Kemp said in a statement Thursday. “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.”

The lawsuit came one day after the governor’s office overruled the mask mandate by issuing an executive order, which said “any state, county, or municipal law, order, ordinance, rule or regulation that requires persons to wear face coverings, masks, face shields, or any other Personal Protective Equipment while in places of public accommodation or on public property are suspended to the extent that they are more restrictive than this executive order.”

A spokeswoman for Kemp, Candice Broce, also said in a statement following the executive order that while the governor “continues to strongly encourage Georgians to wear masks in public,” local mask mandates “are unenforceable.”

Lance Bottoms, who just recently tested positive for the coronavirus, vowed to fight back, telling reporters at a news conference Thursday that she was “not afraid of the city being sued.” Meanwhile in a tweet, the mayor criticized the governor’s move, saying: “A better use of tax payer money would be to expand testing and contact tracing.”

Besides Lance Bottoms, mayors elsewhere in Georgia, including Savannah Mayor Van Johnson and Athens-Clarke County Mayor Kelly Girtz, also lashed out at Kemp, arguing that mask mandates are within the authority of local officials, and that Kemp was overstepping his authority to override the local orders.

One of the first U.S. states to reopen — before the COVID-19 pandemic was brought under control — Georgia has reported 131,275 confirmed cases and 3,104 deaths as of Thursday afternoon, up by 3,441 and 13 respectively from the previous day, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

To cope with the virus resurgence, at least 15 cities and counties in Georgia have ordered residents to wear masks. Enditem

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