By Rich McKay
ATLANTA (Reuters) - Georgia Governor Brian Kemp on Tuesday withdrew his emergency request for a court to stop enforcement of Atlanta's requirement that faces masks be worn in all public places, while mediation over the state's legal effort to block the mandate proceeds.
Kemp sued Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the city two weeks ago to stop enforcement of the local mandate, aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus. The governor argued that the city lacks the authority to override his order encouraging but not requiring face coverings.
In a statement, the Republican governor's office said that the motion was withdrawn, "to continue productive, good faith negotiations with city officials and prepare for a future hearing on the merits of our legal position."
Mayor Bottoms, a Democrat, has said that she would continue to defy the governor's orders, but hoped that the two sides could find a solution.
Bottoms is one of a handful of Georgia mayors and other leaders who have enacted local mask orders in defiance of the governor.
Kemp, one of the first governors to ease statewide stay-at-home orders and business closures, has suggested that mandating masks would be too restrictive.
As Southern U.S. states have seen a spurt of new cases, Georgia has had more than 170,000 coronavirus cases and over 3,500 known fatalities.
(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; editing by Jonathan Oatis)