Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s Mask Assault Stokes Coronavirus Despair in Atlanta

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s Mask Assault Stokes Coronavirus Despair in Atlanta

ATLANTA—For Austin Sirkin, a cancer survivor, wearing a mask during the coronavirus pandemic was never in any doubt.

The 40-year-old has been duly sheltering in place since March in spite of his state’s aggressive reopening scheme, opting to instead have his groceries and other essentials delivered. But he was hopeful that, with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ mandate last week that people wear masks in public, it might be safe to go out. So when he read that Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp had issued an order on Wednesday explicitly prohibiting cities from enacting such mandates for the first time, it left him speechless.

“I feel very powerless,” Sirkin told The Daily Beast from his East Atlanta home, adding, “No one cares about my situation.” 

A slew of Georgia elected officials quickly slammed Kemp’s order. At first brush, it seemed like just the latest episode in a long-running saga pitting the state’s mayors and public health experts against a governor who has encouraged people to wear masks but often seemed more concerned with libertarian impulses than public safety. 

On Thursday evening, Kemp showed he meant business, announcing a lawsuit against top Atlanta officials seeking to prevent them from enacting their local mandate.

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