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Bottoms credits mask mandates for Georgia’s falling COVID-19 rate

By Patricia Murphy, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga

Atlanta mayor also discusses Warnock Senate bid, ethics investigation

Things are (mostly) looking up between Gov. Brain Kemp and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms after a summer of clashes between the two over how best to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the state.

During a Thursday press conference with reporters over Zoom, Bottoms called her working relationship with the governor “productive.”

Bottoms and Kemp had a heated standoff in July after she issued a mandate requiring the use of masks in the city to control the spread of the coronavirus, in direct opposition to the governor’s position that local mask mandates were “unenforceable.” The governor then took the unusual step of suing Bottoms and her administration to invalidate Atlanta’s mask mandate — and a war of words and wills began.

The governor eventually dropped the suit, and on Thursday, Bottoms acknowledged their “very public disagreement on the mask mandate.” She also said the mask mandates in Atlanta and other Georgia localities are working.

“I’m grateful that the lawsuit has been dropped and there are now municipalities, cities, and counties across the state now able to mandate that people wear masks in their respective communities,” she said. “I very much believe that has a lot to do with the reason the (COVID-19) numbers are now lower in the state of Georgia.”

On Sunday, the White House Coronavirus Task Force moved Georgia out of its most severe category for states’ COVID-19 cases. Last week, Georgia reported fewer new cases than the national average, the first time that had happened since June.

The mayor made other news in her time with reporters over Zoom.

When asked whether she’s endorsing the Rev. Raphael Warnock’s bid for U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s seat, as Stacey Abrams and former Presidents Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter have already done, Bottoms declined for today. “It is my plan to make endorsements in the Senate races, and I’ll let you all guess who those endorsements will be,” she said.

Bottoms also hit back at a state ethics commission investigationinto whether her 2017 mayoral campaign illegally accepted more than $380,000 in contributions. The commission has said the mayor’s campaign has failed to provide records subpoenaed for the investigation.

Bottoms responded that her campaign’s attorney had suffered a stroke and delayed her campaign’s response to the allegations, which she said are so general she cannot answer them with any specificity.

“It’s unfortunate that the head of the ethics committee has not been forthright in his relaying where we are with that,” she said of the commission’s executive director, David H. Emadi, adding later, “That being said, I am confident that I’ve done nothing wrong.”