'We're paying for it': COVID-positive Atlanta mayor says state reopened too soon

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms says her son and husband have also tested positive.

July 7, 2020, 12:34 PM

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said Tuesday that she, her husband and one of their children are now among a rising number of Georgia residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are "paying the price" for the state reopening its economy too soon.

"Prayerfully my symptoms won’t get any worse," Bottoms said during an interview on "Good Morning America" with ABC News' Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos.

"What they’ve told me is I have a low-positive test," she said. "So it either means I’m on the way up or down. They don’t know which one. But they’ve told me to treat it as if I’m positive, just in terms of quarantining and all other things that are recommended that people do."

Bottoms, a 50-year-old Democrat, broke the news of her diagnosis to her constituents in a Twitter post on Monday, writing, "COVID-19 has literally hit home. I have had NO symptoms and have tested positive."

On Tuesday, Bottoms said she has only suffered headaches in recent days, but chalked it up to allergies.

She said her husband, Derek W. Bottoms, and one of their four children have tested positive. She said one of her children tested negative and she plans to get the other two children tested on Tuesday.

PHOTO: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms appears on "Good Morning America," July 7, 2020.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms appears on "Good Morning America," July 7, 2020.
ABC News

"My husband literally slept from Thursday until yesterday and that’s what gave me some concern. I’ve just never seen him sleep that much, but he’s feeling better," Bottoms told Stephanopolos, who along with his wife, author Ali Wentworth, tested positive for coronavirus in April and have since recovered.

Bottoms' diagnosis comes at a particularly turbulant time for Atlanta, one of several major U.S. cities that saw a surge in gun violence over the Fourth of July weekend.

On Monday, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency and activated 1,000 National Guard troops to help restore order in the Atlanta. The order followed an incident early Sunday in which about 60 to 100 protesters allegedly descended on the Georgia Bureau of Public Safety headquarters in Atlanta, vandalized the building and sparked a fire injuring two employees of the law enforcement agency, authorities said.

Since the May 25 police-involved death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the June 12 fatal police-involved shooting of another Black man, Rayshard Brooks, in Atlanta, the Georgia capital has become a flashpoint for protests that have spread across the nation, fueling calls for police reform.

Bottoms said she was against Kemp, a Republican, deploying the National Guard to Atlanta, adding that the move was made without consulting her or other city officials.

"The irony of that is I asked him to allow us to mandate masks in Atlanta and he said no," Bottoms said. "But he has called in the National Guard without asking if we needed the National Guard."

Asked about the uptick in violence in recent days in Atlanta, Bottoms blamed it on "a perfect storm of distress in America."

"I think that people are obviously anxious and even angry about COVID-19. Loved ones are dying, people are losing their jobs and I think there’s a lot of frustration, a lot of angst and I think that the rhetoric that comes out of the White House doesn’t help at all," she said. "It doesn’t give people much hope. And I think it's all converging together."

Bottoms, who has been talked about as a potential running mate for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, also expressed disappointment in the governor for reopening the economy while the state is still in the throes of the pandemic. Georgia is one of several states that continue to see a rising number of coronavirus cases.

On Monday, the Georgia Department of Public Health confirmed 97,064 coronavirus cases in the state, an increase of 6,571 cases since Friday.

Bottoms said that while Atlanta has taken a phased approach to reopening, elsewhere the reopening has been "too aggressive."

"It was too soon and we're paying for it not just in Georgia but we're paying for it across the country and people are paying for it with their lives," Bottoms said.

While President Donald Trump has said at recent rallies that schools across the country should reopen in the fall and he and First Lady Melania Trump were scheduled to participate on Tuesday in a National Dialogue on Safely Reopening America's Schools, Bottoms suggested that schools in Atlanta, which are controlled by independently elected boards, may not be ready to reopen by the beginning of August, when classes traditionally begin.

"I expect that we'll have more announcements soon but with the way the numbers are up I don't know how it can possibly be safe to send kids back into the school for the sake of our teachers," Bottoms said. "The kids may be OK but our teachers will certainly be at risk."

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