Gov. Brian Kemp is suing the city of Atlanta over its mandatory mask mandate in a legal battle between state and local government over COVID-19 rules.
Under Kemp’s executive orders, local governments are restricted from enacting rules related to COVID-19 that are more restrictive than the state’s. Multiple Georgia cities in the past few weeks — beginning with Savannah on July 1 and Athens on July 8 — have implemented mandatory mask rules.
Kemp filed a lawsuit on Thursday against Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and city council over its coronavirus guidelines, including its mandatory mask rule, according to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution.
“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 in a statement, according to the AJC. “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 said the city was prepared to go to trial for the suit.
“I am not afraid of the city being sued and I will put our policies up against anyone’s, any day of the week,” Bottoms told the AJC Thursday.
The lawsuit sets a precedent for the state government to intervene with other local mask policies, including Athens. Athens will continue to enforce its mask mandate, Mayor Kelly Girtz said in an interview Thursday.
“We are maintaining our ordinance. It’s been in place for just eight days now, and our enforcement thus far has exclusively involved education and distribution of masks to individuals who didn’t have them,” Girtz said. “We always hold it in our power to use the fines that are embedded in our code.”