Georgia’s governor and the mayor of its largest city have accused each other of playing politics amid an escalating fight over face masks intended to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
The battle over masks in a state with rapidly rising cases of Covid-19 has erupted into a public fight in recent days as more than a dozen cities and counties defied Republican Governor Brian Kemp and issued local orders requiring masks in their cities.
The dispute intensified on Wednesday, when Mr Kemp not only issued an executive order banning cities from requiring face coverings to prevent the spread of Covid-19 but US President Donald Trump arrived in Atlanta for a visit without wearing a mask.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms held her ground, declaring Mr Trump violated a city order by showing up without a face covering. On Thursday, Mr Kemp sued the city of Atlanta in order to strike down its face-mask requirement. In an interview on This Morning on CBS, Ms Bottoms questioned the timing of of the legal action, branding it “really odd”.
“I pointed out that Donald Trump violated that order when he landed at our airport and did not wear a mask,” she said.
Mayor Bottoms’ mask mandate cannot be enforced but her decision to shutter businesses and undermine economic growth is devastating
She declined to say the president was behind the governor’s lawsuit but added Mr Kemp “is a Trump loyalist and he seems to work very hard to please the president of the United States, and that is often at the expense of the people in our state”. Mr Trump “was violating the rules of our city in just a blatant disregard for the science”, she added.
Governor Mr Kemp defended the legal action during a press conference on Friday morning, accusing Atlanta officials of playing politics and not enforcing state orders already in effect. It was filed “on behalf of business owners, their employees and hard-working Georgians throughout the region who continue to struggle to make ends meet”, he said.
Mr Kemp added: “Mayor Bottoms’ mask mandate cannot be enforced but her decision to shutter businesses and undermine economic growth is devastating.”
The governor and Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, argue in the legal action that Ms Bottoms has overstepped her authority and must obey Mr Kemp’s executive orders under state law.
Ms Bottoms said she would continue enforcing the mask mandates and is prepared to toe-to-toe with Kemp.
“We will have to fight the governor about this in court,” she said.