The battle over masks in a state with rapidly rising cases of COVID-19 erupted into a public fight as Atlanta and more than a dozen other cities and counties defied Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and issued local orders requiring masks be worn in public spaces.
The dispute ratcheted up several notches this week, leading to tough talk from both the governor and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms this, who accused President Donald Trump of violating the city’s mask requirement.
On Wednesday, Kemp issued an executive order that explicitly voided local mask requirements. That same day, Trump arrived in Atlanta for a visit without wearing a mask. Then Thursday, Kemp sued the city of Atlanta to block it from enforcing a mask mandate and other rules related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bottoms stuck to her guns in an interview today on CBS “This Morning,” questioning the timing of the lawsuit and calling out Trump for landing in Atlanta without wearing a mask.
“I pointed out that Donald Trump violated that order when he landed at our airport and did not wear a mask,” she said. She declined to say that Trump was behind Kemp’s lawsuit but said the president “was violating the rules of our city in just a blatant disregard for the science.”
The White House said the president and all who get close to him get tested.
“The President takes the health and safety of everyone traveling in support of himself and all White House operations very seriously,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said. “When preparing for and carrying out any travel, White House Operations collaborates with the Physician to the President and the White House Military Office, to ensure plans incorporate current CDC guidance and best practices for limiting COVID-19 exposure to the greatest extent possible.”
A spokeswoman for Kemp said the lawsuit had no connection with Trump’s visit.
Bottoms also said she would continue enforcing the mask mandate and was prepared to go toe-to-toe with Kemp in court.
“We will have to fight the governor about this in court,” she said.
Kemp defended the lawsuit during a press conference this morning, accusing Atlanta officials of playing politics and not enforcing state orders already in effect.
The lawsuit was filed “on behalf of business owners, their employees and hardworking Georgians throughout the region who continue to struggle to make ends meet,” Kemp said.
“Mayor Bottoms’ mask mandate cannot be enforced, but her decision to shutter businesses and undermine economic growth is devastating,” Kemp said.