‘If he’s wrong more people can die’: Atlanta mayor reacts to governor’s order to start reopening state

ATLANTA — Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said she doesn’t know what information Gov. Brian Kemp is basing his decision on to start reopening the state amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The governor announced he was going to start reopening some businesses starting Friday with strict social distancing and hygiene requirements.

Channel 2 anchor Jovita Moore spoke with Bottoms on Monday night, who said she was caught off guard by the governor’s announcement.

“I saw the announcement watching Channel 2 like the rest of Georgia,” Bottoms said. “I didn’t know it was coming and obviously the governor is the governor and he certainly has the prerogative to make orders that he deems appropriate. He did not consult with me. I don’t know what the reasoning and data that the governor used to make this decision was, because I have not spoken with him, but I did not know in advance.”

Moore asked the mayor if she thought reopening parts of the state beginning at the end of the week was too soon or if she agreed with the governor’s decision.

“The governor and I have traditionally had a very good working relationship so with all due respect I can say I don’t agree with this order. But again, I don’t know what the governor is basing this on. To the extent that we’ve had any success with numbers, I would venture to say it’s because we’ve been very aggressive in the actions that we’ve taken. What I know is that we still are not testing asymptomatic and people with mild symptoms, so I don’t think we have a very clear picture of what our real numbers are.”


Bottoms said she is still seeing case numbers rising in the state.

“As of 7 p.m. today, I believe we had deaths like over 13%, and so our numbers are still going up. Where we’re seeing our numbers really spike are in areas that were slow to close down like Bibb County. It concerns me when you talk about opening up houses of worship, and you know that our worst outbreak in the state came from two funerals, by and large in Albany, Georgia."

The mayor said she understands people’s frustrations with the shelter-in-place order, but in the long run it’s about saving lives.

"You get your hair done, I get my hair done. I don’t know how you socially distance when someone is doing your hair or doing your nails, giving you a massage. These things are concerning to me, Bottoms said. “I do hope that I’m wrong and the governor is right. Because if he’s wrong, more people can die.”

“You just today announced sort of an advisory panel to help talk about this for the city of Atlanta. Why did you put together that panel, what are your concerns about the city before deeming it open? Moore asked Bottoms.

“I wanted us to have input and information from a cross section of people, certainly from our business leaders in the state and also from our public health officials. The best example I received was from Dr. Carlos del Rio at Emory University who I spoke with this evening. He said it’s like climbing Mt. Everest. You’re getting to a peak, but as many people die coming off of that peak than they do climbing that peak. Just because we had one peak doesn’t mean that we won’t have another peak,” Bottoms said.