Gov. Brian Kemp is withdrawing the lawsuit his administration filed in July against Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms which challenges the city’s mask mandate and voluntary “Phase One” reopening rollback. A press release issued Thursday afternoon indicates the governor will address local mask ordinances with “relevant language” in an upcoming executive order expected Saturday.
Kemp’s emergency powers prevent local municipalities from enacting more severe COVID-19 measures. The governor and Atlanta mayor have been in mediation over the lawsuit for the past several weeks.
“I sued the City of Atlanta to immediately stop the shuttering of local businesses and protect local workers from economic instability. For weeks, we have worked in good faith with Mayor Bottoms, and she agreed to abandon the city’s Phase One roll-back plan, which included business closures and a shelter in place order,” the statement reads. “Unfortunately, the Mayor has made it clear that she will not agree to a settlement that safeguards the rights of private property owners in Georgia. Given this stalemate in negotiations, we will address this very issue in the next Executive Order.”
Bottoms fired back in a tweet, calling Kemp’s statement “shameful” and an “intentional misrepresentation” of her actions. Then, in an official statement, the mayor points to the mask mandate and reopening rollback as meant to “save lives,” further blasting the governor for inaccurately portraying their “good faith negotiations and the city’s reopening recommendations.”
The AJC reports, Kemp may remove language buried within the “Governments” section on page 32 of the current order (7.15.20.01) banning local municipalities from requiring masks, including inside private businesses such as restaurants. Instead, the new order could allow local mask mandates to stand with some restrictions and give restaurants and private businesses the choice to opt out of an existing mandate.
Bottoms signed the executive order in early July requiring masks inside commercial businesses (like restaurants and grocery stores) and other buildings and spaces open to the public within the city limits. The order includes Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
In addition to the mask requirement, the order also rolls back the city’s reopening to phase one. Under the voluntary reopening guidelines, restaurants are advised to (but not required to) close dining rooms and return to takeout. The move came as Georgia surpassed 100,000 COVID-19 cases last month. Cases continue to surge throughout the state.
Most city of Atlanta restaurants remain open, with many offering some form of dine-in service, along with takeout.
Update, August 13, 7:30 p.m.: This story was updated with statements from the Atlanta mayor.
Stay home if sick. Check the Georgia Department of Public Health website for guidance and updates on the latest number of reported COVID-19 cases.