Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issues executive order requiring face masks in the city

ATLANTA — Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms signed an executive order Wednesday night mandating that people wear masks or face coverings in the City of Atlanta.

The order also prevents gatherings of more than 10 people on City of Atlanta property.

“We will continue to take active measures to help slow the spread of COVID-19 infections in Atlanta,” Bottoms said. “Public health experts overwhelmingly agree that wearing a face covering helps slow the spread of this sometimes deadly virus.”

Atlanta is the biggest city in Georgia that will require masks be worn by everyone. East Point, Athens and Savannah have implemented similar rules.

“I’m joining so many mayors across the state who have ordered people to wear face coverings,” Bottoms told Channel 2 Anchor Justin Farmer. “And what it means, it’s just another layer for us to remind people and really enforce the emergency that we are in in our city and in our state right now.”

The mayor said the executive order will require masks in the airport, in public parks, and anywhere were social distancing isn’t taking place. The order also extends to individuals inside commercial entities or other buildings or spaces open to the public.

The requirements don’t apply to kids under 10, people who are eating or smoking, drivers, people in swimming pools, anyone who can’t wear a mask because of a disability and anyone talking to a broadcast audience.

Farmer asked how the mayor plans to enforce the mandate.

“We are looking into what we can do to enforce it outside of our public facilities,” Bottoms said. “But we’re just asking people to do the right thing.”

Channel 2 confirmed officials and code enforcement officers will be able to tell people in public, in the city, that they must wear a mask.

Anyone not wearing a mask at the airport will be asked to leave. In other parts of the city, violators could receive a citation and, in a strict enforcement, charges with the possibility of jail time or a $1,000 fine.

Bottoms herself was diagnosed with COVID-19 this week. She told Farmer she has a runny nose, scratchy throat and some irritability, but otherwise feels fine.

On Tuesday, Georgia surpassed a milestone with more than 100,000 coronavirus cases.

[RELATED: Special section on coronavirus in Georgia]

The state is currently reporting 103,890 cases and 2,922 deaths. That’s an increase of 3,420 new cases and 23 deaths since Tuesday.

Georgia becomes the ninth state to pass the 100,000 case mark, joining New York, California, Florida, Texas, New Jersey, Illinois, Massachusetts and Arizona.

Channel 2′s Audrey Washington was in downtown Atlanta, where many people said they support the mask mandate.

Melvin Littlejohn and his family are from Ohio, where a mask mandate is already in place.

“It is illegal to walk around or walk into any public business without a mask,” Littlejohn said.

Littlejohn said he thinks the mask mandate in Atlanta is long overdue.

“It needs to be mandated because some of the places I went to, nobody is actually wearing a mask,” Littlejohn said. “So I’m surprised it ain’t as bad is it could be.”

Atlanta resident Bill Walker said he is also onboard. Walker said he has a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and that he never leaves the house without his mask.

“This is probably going to be a positive step in getting things under control,” Walker said. “It’s best to be safe than sorry.”

On Wednesday, Washington also spoke with Brookhaven’s mayor, John Ernst, who is considering a mask mandate through executive order.

“This is not a joke,” Littlejohn said. “A lot of people are dying. It’s everybody’s right to be safe.”

The cities of Doraville and Decatur will take up the issue next week.