Georgia Governor withdraws request for emergency injunctions against Atlanta mask mandate

Georgia is among 21 states with outbreaks severe enough to be placed in the “red zone,” according to a new federal report obtained by The New York Times. Distributed to state officials by the White House Coronavirus Task Force, the report recommends that Georgia officials “order the use of masks at all current and evolving hot spots, optimally a statewide mandate.”

The governor, who has encouraged but does not require masks, argues that cities and counties are prohibited from applying rules that are more or less restrictive than his. Kemp’s lawsuit also points to the city’s guidelines regarding the pandemic, including those that encouraged new limits on restaurants and other businesses to contain the disease.

As part of his request for an emergency court order, Kemp asked the court to suspend the mayor’s executive orders and prevent her from “issuing press releases or making statements to the press, that she has the authority to impose further measures. or less restrictive “than him.

The city filed its court response on Monday, saying Kemp’s legal challenge is prohibited by sovereign immunity, the legal doctrine that prohibits lawsuits against government officials. Atlanta lawyers added that blocking the mayor from speaking to journalists or issuing press releases would violate the Constitution, saying that “speech on public policy issues is a central right of freedom of expression that is entitled to” protection. broader “under the First Amendment”.

Kemp has been challenged by more than a dozen cities and counties by adopting mask requirements, including Athens, Augusta and Savannah. Others have tried to avoid legal battles with the governor. On Monday, for example, Macon-Bibb County Mayor Robert Reichert vetoed an ordinance requiring masks in public, saying he respects the “authority of the governor.”

“I really believe that we should do everything in our power to convince people to follow all preventive measures to stop the spread of COVID-19,” he wrote in a letter to the Macon-Bibb Commission. “But I think we have gone as far as we can, legally, for people to wear their masks, practice social distancing, avoid large groups, and more.”