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Bottoms on wearing masks: It's an unselfish act and protects those around you

In an exclusive interview Thursday with 11Alive's Shiba Russell, Mayor Bottoms said she is leaving the option for a mask mandate in Atlanta on the table.

ATLANTA — As the debate continues to play out on whether or not to mandate masks, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said wearing one is the most unselfish thing we can do during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It not only protests yourself, but the people around you," she said. 

In an exclusive interview Thursday with 11Alive's Shiba Russell, Bottoms said she is leaving the option for a mask mandate on the table.  

Atlanta's mayor said although she thinks these numbers are an indicator that Georgia started reopening too soon, she said it's not the time to play Monday morning quarterback.

RELATED: Mayor Bottoms: Georgia is paying the price now for 'aggressive' reopening amid pandemic

"I'm looking at numbers for COVID-19 that are very alarming. I haven't seen numbers like this in a very long time, and this is something that people should take seriously," Bottoms said.

"I've always said that I thought we needed to be more a little more thoughtful in terms of how we reopen, and that it should have been a much more phased approach also an opportunity for us to do more contact tracing," she added. 

"When we look at where the numbers are lowest in the country, it is in the northeast where they were a bit slower to reopen. But we are where we are now and we have to deal with what's in front of us," she said.

Instead, she said she's hoping to see a consistent message from the state.

"I do think that any type of consistent messaging that we can have coming from the governor's office" is helpful, she said.

As Georgia saw another record-breaking day for new cases of COVID-19 in a single day, Gov. Brian Kemp embarked on the last legs of his Wear a Mask flyaround tour

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams joined Kemp and Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey Thursday to encourage all to wear masks to slow the spread of the virus. Kemp, however, has resisted implementing a mask mandate, saying Georgians shouldn't need one to do the right thing.

RELATED: Gov. Kemp says he doesn't have time for 'pandemic politics'

But the leaders of some localities, like the mayor of Savannah, Georgia, are taking matters into their own hands and requiring masks anyway. While Mayor Bottoms said she is encouraged Kemp did tour the state, she's not ruling out out her own mandate for Atlanta

"We'll continue to watch what happens in Savannah and then make our decision," Bottoms said.

"I think - again - we have to take responsibility for ourselves, but also think about the people around us who are vulnerable. We know that COVID-19 is making healthy people very, very sick," Bottoms added. "But [we also have to] think about our children and think about our seniors and people with compromised immune systems and even p[people with underlying health conditions, and these are very common conditions in our city - asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes."

"A lot of people don't even know that they suffer from these conditions, so if they are infected with COVID-19, it could prove deadly," she added.

11Alive is focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. We want to keep you informed about the latest developments while ensuring that we deliver confirmed, factual information.

We will track the most important coronavirus elements relating to Georgia on this page. Refresh often for new information. 

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