Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp looks on during a coronavirus briefing at the Capitol Friday, July 17, 2020, in Atlanta.  Kemp sued the city of Atlanta over its face-mask requirement just after President Donald Trump arrived in the city without wearing a mask, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said Friday. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) Brian Kemp
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp looks on during a coronavirus briefing at the Capitol Friday, July 17, 2020, in Atlanta. Kemp sued the city of Atlanta over its face-mask requirement just after President Donald Trump arrived in the city without wearing a mask, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said Friday. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Georgia is among 18 states listed in the “red zone” for COVID-19 cases and test positivity, according to an unpublished document prepared for the White House Coronavirus Task Force

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and his Attorney General Chris Carr filed suit in state court late Thursday against Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, arguing she overstepped her authority by making face coverings mandatory in public to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. Kemp is asking a judge to declare that Bottoms cannot enforce the mask rules.

The lawsuit states that only Kemp “leads the State of Georgia in its fight against the worldwide novel coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic” and that “Governor Kemp must be allowed, as the chief executive of this state, to manage the public health emergency without Mayor Bottoms issuing void and unenforceable orders which only serve to confuse the public.”

“The filing of a lawsuit is simply bizarre, quite frankly,” Mayor Bottoms fired back on the Today Show. Savannah and other cities in Georgia issued mask orders as early as July 1, but Kemp only moved when Atlanta ordered masks a week later. As coronavirus cases surged across the state, Bottoms sought to move the city back to “Phase 1” status, which would shutter non-essential businesses and require people to shelter at home. 

Kemp claims that was the impetus for his actions. 

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

Bottoms suspects it has more to do with President Donald Trump’s recent visit. “I don’t think it is happenstance that this lawsuit came the day after Donald Trump visited Atlanta and I pointed out he was violating city law by not having on a mask in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport,” she said.

Kemp amended his executive orders Wednesday, specifically blocking Atlanta and 14 other local municipalities from requiring face coverings in public. Bottoms, who recently tested positive herself, said she would continue to enforce the order. 

“As of today, 3,104 Georgians have died and I and my family are amongst the 106,000 who have tested positive for COVID-19,” Bottoms said in a statement after the lawsuit was filed. “A better use of taxpayer money would be to expand testing and contact tracing. If being sued by the state is what it takes to save lives in Atlanta, then we will see them in court.”

As of Thursday evening, over 3,100 people had died of COVID-19-related causes in Georgia, and there were at least 2,700 people hospitalized across the state due to the virus. Georgia is among 18 states listed in the “red zone” for COVID-19 cases and test positivity, according to an unpublished document prepared for the White House Coronavirus Task Force. This means Georgia had more than 100 new cases per 100,000 population last week, and that more than 10 percent of diagnostic test results came back positive, respectively.

“What he continues to do is downplay not only the challenge to Georgians, but the deaths of Georgians,” Stacey Abrams, Kemp’s Democratic challenger for governor in 2018, said Wednesday on MSNBC. “More than 3,000 Georgians have perished, disproportionately Black and brown Georgians. And he continues to fiddle while Rome burns.”

A day after filing suit, Kemp urged Georgia residents to wear masks at a press conference Friday. 

“It’s the community that defeats this virus, not the government,” Kemp said.