ATLANTA (CN) — Georgia Governor Brian Kemp announced Thursday he is suing Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the Atlanta City Council to block the city from requiring citizens to wear face masks in public as the number of people infected statewide with Covid-19 continues to surge.
Kemp and Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr filed the lawsuit in Fulton County Superior Court Thursday evening, arguing that Bottoms has exceeded her authority by issuing executive orders which are more restrictive than those issued by the governor.
The lawsuit states that Kemp alone “leads the State of Georgia in its fight against the worldwide novel coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic” and says that he has exclusive power “to suspend municipal orders that are contradictory to any state law or to his executive orders.”
“This lawsuit is on behalf of the Atlanta business owners and their hardworking employees who are struggling to survive during these difficult times,” Kemp said on Twitter Thursday after the lawsuit was announced.
“We will fight to stop these reckless actions and put people over pandemic politics,” he added.
The complaint comes after Kemp issued a new executive order Wednesday expressly forbidding municipal government officials across the state from setting mandatory face covering policies.
Officials in more than a dozen Georgia cities and counties had issued orders requiring the use of face coverings during the pandemic.
In a series of July orders, Bottoms mandated the use of face masks in Atlanta, restricted public gatherings to no more than 10 people and urged residents to leave home only for essential trips.
The governor said that his office would “strongly encourage” Georgians to wear face masks but would not require them, even as the number of Covid-19 infections continues to rise across the state and hospitalizations increase.
The lawsuit alleges that the orders issued by Bottoms are unnecessarily confusing to the public and have caused some businesses to close their doors.
“Mayor Bottoms’ contradictory executive orders, press releases, and statements to the press, creates uncertainty and confusion among Atlanta City business owners and the citizenry of this State,” the complaint reads. “Mayor Bottoms’ orders and actions present a high potential for irreparable harm to the citizenry, including but not limited to, lost wages and livelihood, business closures, and the opportunity for economic growth.”
The lawsuit asks to overturn orders given by Bottoms, which are more restrictive than Kemp’s, and to block Bottoms from issuing any other orders that go beyond the governor’s approach.
The complaint also asks a judge to instruct the city council not to ratify Bottoms’ actions or adopt ordinances that contradict Kemp, force Bottoms from making public statements claiming that she has authority that exceeds Kemp’s and require city officials to enforce Kemp’s existing orders.
Bottoms took to Twitter Thursday evening to hit back at the governor.
“3104 Georgians have died and I and my family are amongst the 106k who have tested positive for COVID-19. Meanwhile, I have been sued by @GovKemp for a mask mandate. A better use of tax payer money would be to expand testing and contact tracing,” she said.
The Covid-19 infection rate in Georgia continues to climb and nearly 2,800 people are now hospitalized statewide with the illness, the highest number on record so far.