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Georgia Mayors Not Thrilled With Governor's COVID Move

Gov. Kemp is loosening restrictions starting Friday
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 21, 2020 10:20 AM CDT

(Newser) – Much has been written about the friction between the states and the federal government on the coronavirus. Now comes friction on a different level—between governors and the mayors of cities on how fast to reopen. It's now showing up in Georgia, where Gov. Brian Kemp declared that businesses such as gyms, bowling alleys, hair salons, and tattoo parlors can reopen Friday, provided they abide by social distancing requirements. Coverage:

  • Atlanta: The mayor of Georgia's biggest city says Kemp didn't consult with her or other big-city mayors before his announcement. "I've spoken with several leaders across this state," says Keisha Bottoms, per Politico. "So we really are at a loss, and I am concerned as a mother and as the mayor of our capital city." The mayor stressed she has a good working relationship with Kemp, "but as I look at the data and as I talk with our public health officials, I don't see that it's based on anything that's logical."
  • Savannah: The mayor of Savannah, Van Johnson, has similar worries, telling CNN that Kemp's order is "not based on any type of science or best practices." He said Savannah's coronavirus numbers were still rising, "so this just blows our mind."

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  • The conflict: Kemp's order stipulates that local officials can't issue more restrictive rules than his own. On Monday, he defended his decision as "surgical, targeted, and methodical" and said it was designed to protect both lives and "livelihoods," per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He also argued that state cases have "flattened and appear to be declining." The story counters his optimism with the opinion of Dr. Marc Lipsitch of the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. "It's a very big risk," he said, because "if you open up enough, it's almost ... certain" the virus will intensify in the state.
  • Atlanta, II: Mayor Bottoms told ABC News Monday night that while she can't overrule the governor and lock down her city, she disagrees with the move and will continue to urge residents to stay home. "We don't know what the governor is looking at, but what I do know is we have nearly 19,000 people who have tested positive as of this evening," she said. And as Kemp, a Republican, was announcing his decision, the Democratic mayor announced the formation of an advisory council on when Atlanta should loosen restrictions, reports the Daily Beast. Its "plan of action" is due May 15.
  • The politics: The "predictable" next phase of the coronavirus crisis is sure to be bitter partisan politics, write Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei at Axios. They note that, generally, "conservatives live in states with fewer cases and consume far more skeptical coverage of the virus threat," while "liberals, especially in big cities, experience more death and consume far more ominous coverage." Consider that the latest states to loosen restrictions—Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee—are Southern states run by GOP governors. The upshot is that upcoming debates about the virus will likely "devolve into Fox vs. MSNBC food fights."
(Read more Atlanta stories.)

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