Kemp Plans To Open Stores, Salons, Gyms While Other Govs Proceed More Cautiously

A view of the Election Night event for Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp at the Classic Center on November 6, 2018 in Athens, Georgia.  Kemp is in a close race with Democrat Stacey Abrams.
Brian Kemp (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) announced Monday that he would allow a tranche of business to open up by week’s end across a state that has been particularly hard-hit by COVID-19.

He announced at a press briefing that he was prepared to “incrementally and safely reopen sectors of our economy” based on “favorable data, enhanced testing and the approval of our health care officials.” 

On Friday, businesses including gyms, salons, barbershops and bowling alleys will be allowed to open statewide. He said that they will be subject to specific restrictions in the areas of sanitation and social distancing. 

He added that those businesses in particular have not been able to “undertake the baseline operations” that other industries have managed since he issued a shelter-in-place order on April 2.

He also emphasized that the decision applies to every jurisdiction in Georgia, saying that “local action cannot be taken that is more or less restrictive.”

Friday’s openings will just be the first wave. On Monday, theaters, private social clubs and dine-in services at restaurants will also be open for business, Kemp said. He added that bars, nightclubs, concert venues and theme parks will remain closed.

“By taking this measured action, we will get Georgians back to work safely without undermining the progress that we all have made in this battle against COVID-19,” he said.

With his order, Kemp is first off the blocks in a dangerous race. 

Per the Georgia Department of Health, the state has 18,947 known cases of coronavirus, and 733 people have died. A model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington that the White House has based its own predictions on shows Georgia to be slightly past its peak, though it identifies June 15 as the point at which relaxing social distancing measures will become possible.

Other governors, mostly Republicans, are reopening small slices of their economies.

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster (R) is, similar to Kemp, reopening retail stores across the state on Tuesday, though maintaining the ban on salons and gyms. Vermont Governor Phil Scott (R) allowed the reopening of certain businesses, like two-man construction crews, on Monday. Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) opened state parks on Monday, and is allowing stores to open for “retail to go” on Friday — where stores bring items to customers’ cars, like many restaurants are currently operating. Governor Ron DeSantis (R) announced Friday that beaches may reopen, if they do so “in a safe way.” Minnesota Governor Tim Walz (D) reopened golf courses and some bait shops on Friday. 

Many states, including Georgia, have stay-at-home orders that expire at the end of April.

Governors of some states, primarily Republican ones, like Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi, have indicated that they intend to start relaxing social distancing mandates then. 

Governors of others, primarily blue states like New Jersey, Delaware and Washington, have suggested they will err on the side of a longer shutdowns to control transmission of the virus.

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