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Georgia Governor And The Mayor Of Atlanta In Turf War Over COVID-19 Restrictions

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp holds a protective mask while speaking during a 'Wear A Mask' tour stop in Dalton, Georgia, earlier this month.
Bloomberg via Getty Images
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp holds a protective mask while speaking during a 'Wear A Mask' tour stop in Dalton, Georgia, earlier this month.

Georgia's governor and the mayor of the state's capital and largest city are at odds over COVID-19 restrictions, with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announcing a return to tough measures to control a spike in coronavirus infections and Gov. Brian Kemp insisting that her order is "non-binding and legally unenforceable."

Bottoms, a Democrat, announced Friday that she was bringing Atlanta back to Phase 1 reopening — the most restrictive post-lockdown measures that require all residents to stay home except for essential trips.

The mayor's order came on the same day that Georgia announced a record-breaking one-day spike in coronavirus, logging 4,400 new confirmed cases. Health authorities in Atlanta's Fulton County says about half of the new cases in Georgia in the past two weeks have occurred in the city.

But Kemp, a Republican, quickly dismissed the mayor's directive, saying on Friday that it didn't supersede his own, more relaxed, statewide order issued at the end of June.

"Mayor Bottoms' action today is merely guidance — both non-binding and legally unenforceable," Kemp said in a statement.

"As clearly stated in the Governor's executive order, no local action can be more or less restrictive, and that rule applies statewide," the governor said.

"Once again, if the Mayor actually wants to flatten the curve in Atlanta, she should start enforcing state restrictions, which she has failed to do," he said. "We ask citizens and businesses alike to comply with the terms of the Governor's order, which was crafted in conjunction with state public health officials. These common-sense measures will help protect the lives and livelihoods of all Georgians."

Earlier this week, Bottoms had issued a directive for Atlanta residents to wear masks in public, and Kemp responded similarly to that order. Although the governor launched a "Wear A Mask" campaign to encourage their use, he has declined to make it mandatory.

Bottoms told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday that she had the authority to enforce the mask restrictions the way she would enforce any other city ordinance.

The cities of Savannah, East Point and Athens, Kemp's hometown, have enacted similar mask directives.

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

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
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