Georgia to allow some shuttered businesses to reopen amid pandemic
By Greg Bluestein
Gov. Brian Kemp
outlined plans Monday to allow some businesses shuttered amid the coronavirus pandemic to reopen by the end of the week, as he starts to ease restrictions that have ravaged the state’s economy to stem the spread of the disease.
The governor’s order will allow gyms, bowling alleys, salons and some other indoor facilities closed under his shelter in place order to resume operations by Friday if they comply with social distancing requirements and meet other safety standards.
And restaurants, which were banned from in-person dining, will be allowed to reopen on April 27 if they meet guidelines his office will release later this week. Theaters will also be covered by those new standards. Bars and nightclubs will stay shuttered.
“I don’t give a damn about politics now,” said Kemp, who said he’s more concerned about Georgians “going broke worried about whether they can feed their children and make the mortgage payment.”
The shelter in place, which is set to last through April 30, remains in effect, though Kemp urged the “medically fragile” to remain at home through May 13.
And the governor, who has wrestled with the idea of banning in-person religious services, said religious leaders can resume them if they adhere to the state’s safety policies.
“I am confident that together we will emerge victorious from this war we have been fighting,” he said.
He was met with immediate criticism from public health experts and others who worried his measures were too aggressive.
“If you open up enough it’s almost for certain” the virus will hit Georgia again, said Dr. Marc Lipsitch, a professor of epidemiology at Harvard’s T.D. Chan School of Public Health. “It’s just waiting for more susceptible people and more contacts. That’s how viruses work.”
Democrats also blasted his decision as short-sighted. Stacey Abrams,
Kemp’s 2018 opponent, called the approach “dangerously incompetent.” And state Rep. Bee Nguyen, D-Atlanta, urged Georgians to take caution.
“There’s no way I’m getting a haircut, or dining at a restaurant, even though I really want to,” she said. “This is not good. This is going to get more Georgians killed.”