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Augusta University finds itself in the middle of Kemp-Bottoms spat

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp adjusts his mask prior to a bill signing at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital where the hospital opened a new Emergency Room space, Thursday, July 16, 2020, in Marietta, Ga. Mayors in Atlanta and other Georgia cities deepened their defiance of Gov. Kemp on Thursday, saying they want their requirements for people to wear masks in public to remain in place, even after the Republican governor explicitly forbade cities and counties from mandating face coverings.(AP Photo/Mike Stewart)
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp adjusts his mask prior to a bill signing at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital where the hospital opened a new Emergency Room space, Thursday, July 16, 2020, in Marietta, Ga. Mayors in Atlanta and other Georgia cities deepened their defiance of Gov. Kemp on Thursday, saying they want their requirements for people to wear masks in public to remain in place, even after the Republican governor explicitly forbade cities and counties from mandating face coverings.(AP Photo/Mike Stewart)(AP Photo/Mike Stewart)
Published: Jul. 17, 2020 at 10:21 AM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The very public disagreement between Gov. Brian Kemp and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has managed to pull Augusta University into its orbit.

Appearing on the “Today” show with Savannah Guthrie, Bottoms was questioned about her spat with the governor over issuing a mask mandate in the capital city.

In the interview, Bottoms said Kemp is motivated by politics. Bottoms noted President Donald Trump was in violation of her city’s mask mandate by not wearing one at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport during his visit earlier in the week.

Kemp filed a lawsuit against the city on behalf of business leaders, saying Bottoms’ mask mandate and reverting back to “phase one” COVID-19 restrictions.

[MORE: Where do we stand on mask mandates in the CSRA?]

But Bottoms went further, attacking Kemp on him not knowing asymptomatic carriers could spread COVID-19 and mentioning that he has relied on Augusta University instead of Atlanta’s Emory University and the CDC.

“He didn’t go to Emory for guidance, he didn’t go to the CDC for guidance. He went to Augusta University, which I’m sure is a fine university in our state, but it’s certainly not Emory University or the CDC in terms of its expertise with infectious disease control, so he was searching for an answer. He got it, and it’s the same answer in the same playbook that we’ve seen come out of the White House.”

Kemp was asked about the comment during his Friday morning news conference.

Posted by Governor Brian Kemp on Friday, July 17, 2020

“Well, I think it’d be a false statement to say I’m not using science, there’s a lot of data out there,” Kemp said.

Kemp went on to say he’s been relying on many sources to help him make decisions as the COVID-19 pandemic rages.

“We have a great director of Department of Health, Dr. Kathleen Tuomey, that’s been a 40-year epidemiologis. She’s worked on things like this -- obviously not COVID before -- but other things that are very much like it. For over 40 years you know she’s worked with Dr [Deborah] Birx before -- she has a great relationship -- and is known and will work with Dr. Robert Redfield at CDC, so to say something like that I wouldn’t agree with it, but people can disagree.”

Augusta University released a statement on the matter, saying they were “disappointed” by Bottoms’ comment.

We're disappointed by the comment made by Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms in a recent interview with the Today Show but will continue to provide the expert health care the citizens of Georgia have come to expect from the state’s only public academic medical center and home to the Medical College of Georgia, The Dental College of Georgia, and the state’s inaugural nursing college.

Research universities are problem solvers, so when the coronavirus pandemic hit, Augusta University and Augusta University Health System immediately went to work on a solution, a solution for which Georgia’s only public academic medical center was uniquely suited to provide. To date, more than 50,000 Georgians have been serviced through the AU Health ExpressCare app and hotline, and an additional more than 64,000 people have been tested at AU Health and Georgia National Guard-partnered drive-thru sites. From virtual screening technology and a first-in-state FDA-approved in-house test for COVID-19, to drive-thru specimen collection locations and a state-of-the-art clinical laboratory where those samples could be tested, Augusta University has consistently stepped up to serve the citizens of Georgia.

We’d like to extend an invitation to Mayor Bottoms to visit our campus in Augusta that has been in existence since 1828 or our five satellite campuses around the state to learn more about our work to serve Georgia, including graduating the largest number of physicians of the four Georgia-based medical schools.

Augusta University spokesperson Christen Engel

Meanwhile, 131,275 cases of COVID-19 have been identified in Georgia with 3,104 deaths as of Thursday.

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