- The governors of Georgia and Louisiana have taken contrasting approaches to reopening their respective economies, despite both states' histories of deep-red leanings. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, R, announced relaxed safety restrictions earlier this month, while Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, D, extended the state's stay-at-home order through May 15.
- Atlanta Mayor Lance Bottoms and New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell shared in a Washington Post Live event on Tuesday how their cities are adapting to these statewide measures. The mayors said cities must tread carefully when reopening economies; any relaxation of social distancing must be grounded in data; and elected leaders must resist any pressure to reopen quickly.
- Lance Bottoms raised concerns of an apparent COVID-19 resurgence just days after Kemp's order took effect. She said she was "very disturbed" to see data showing that some hospitals in the city are seeing a new surge of cases and said that shows social distancing must be maintained in some form. "The challenge is that we are lifting our foot off the pedal, and we are not out of the woods," she said.
Lance Bottoms said she and other mayors across Georgia were not sufficiently consulted by Kemp before he issued his guidelines relaxing restrictions, and that they should have been as they are closest to what is happening on the ground.
"Go down the list, nobody has spoken to the governor about any of our larger cities," Lance Bottoms said. "That is of concern to me because we obviously are responsible for our respective communities and the governor often speaks of deferring to local control. So it has been a bit perplexing to us that he did not defer to local control and input on this issue."
A Kemp spokesman did not respond to Smart Cities Dive's requests for comment on Lance Bottoms' remarks.
The Atlanta mayor added that the easing of restrictions cannot be due to "social distancing fatigue," a term Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser coined in an event last week.
"The notion that we are relieving restrictions so people will have a [hospital] bed when they go bowling really defies logic and it defies the recommendations of health experts across this country," Lance Bottoms said.
By contrast, Gov. Edwards did make his decision to extend the stay-at-home order after consulting with mayors and other local officials in Louisiana. The timeline on that extension (May 15) lines up with Cantrell’s local restrictions, too. There have been calls for her to reopen the city’s economy earlier, especially with its restaurant and tourism so critical to New Orleans’ financial wellbeing, but Cantrell said she refused to be "bullied."
"We are moving in the right direction," she said. "We need to stay the course, stay on track so that we can continue to see the progress that we’re making in the city."
Cantrell also has the impending hurricane season to deal with in a matter of weeks, with local officials and scientists expecting a "busy season." But she said city leaders have taken lessons from an exercise carried out in 2009 in New Orleans, which simulated simultaneous crises of a hurricane and pandemic.
With those pressures weighing on her, as well as a business community itching to get back to normal and warnings a long recovery ahead, Cantrell said she will balance everything and listen to the experts before making any moves.
"Should we have to extend, we will," she said. "But it's not about the date, it will always be about the data as it relates to the decisions that I have to make as mayor of the city."
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