Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms signed an executive order Wednesday requiring face masks in Georgia’s largest city.
According to ABC News, the order may be the beginning of a fight between Mayor Lance Bottoms and Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, who has strongly encouraged but has not required face coverings. The mayor’s order went into effect immediately.
“We will continue to take active measures to help slow the spread of COVID-19 infections in Atlanta,” Bottoms said in a statement. “Public health experts overwhelmingly agree that wearing a face covering helps slow the spread of this sometimes deadly virus.”
The order also prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people on city property. On Monday Lance Bottoms told CNN’s Chris Cuomo both her and her husband tested positive for the virus.
Lance Bottoms has tried to get Kemp to require masks in the past, using the coronavirus’ impact on African Americans as evidence, but her pleas have fallen on deaf ears.
“Other cities have taken the approach that they are going to defy the governor’s executive order. Savannah has done it, some other cities have done it, and Atlanta is going to do it today,” Lance Bottoms told MSNBC in a Wednesday interview. “Because the fact of the matter is that COVID-19 is wreaking havoc on our cities, specifically Black and Brown communities with higher death rates.”
A day before Lance Bottoms signed the order, Kemp asked mayors and county commissioners in the state to help him in a statewide push to get people to wear masks voluntarily.
“We don’t need a mandate to have Georgians do the right thing, but we do need to build strong, public support,” Kemp told mayors, according to prepared remarks released by his office.
Georgia currently has more than 104,000 confirmed cases in the state and more than 2,800 deaths. More than 2,200 COVID-19 patients spent Wednesday night in hospitals in the state, putting a significant strain on doctors, nurses, and EMTs.
Other areas in the state have defied Kemp and required that masks be worn. Savannah and the Atlanta suburb of East Point were joined Tuesday by Athens-Clarke County in requiring masks. At least three other Atlanta suburbs—Fairburn, South Fulton, and Doraville—are considering making masks a requirement.