Three states in the southeastern US led by Republican governors – Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee — are loosening coronavirus-related restrictions in the coming days to try to restart flailing economies. The re-openings will, necessarily lead to an increase in coronavirus cases as people leave their homes and interact with others outside their isolation bubbles. Still, the officials are hoping these increases are manageable and that they are offset by a rejuvenated economy.
- Under Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s orders, gyms, bowling alleys, salons, barbershops, and several other indoor facilities that have been closed across the state since April 2 will be permitted to reopen this Friday.
- Restaurants, which have been banned from in-person dining since the shelter in place order was issued, will be allowed to reopen on April 27 along with movie theatres if they comply with guidelines Kemp’s office is set to release later this week. Bars and nightclubs will remain closed.
- He said that no local ordinance can restrict the openings, which will be implemented statewide. There is no way to properly social distance at a barbershop, nail salon, or massage therapy business. Gyms and bowling alleys require that people touch the same equipment, which can also spread the virus.
- According to Kemp, his primary concern now is Georgians “going broke worried about whether they can feed their children and make the mortgage payment”.
- Under the measures, businesses must meet 20 separate guidelines to reopen, including regularly screening employees for signs of illness, requiring more hand washing, and prohibiting large gatherings of workers.
- The shelter in place order, set to last through April 30, remains in effect, though Kemp urged the “medically fragile” to remain at home through May 13.
- Kemp said that for the state to keep open and avoid any future shutdowns, testing efforts must increase exponentially. In order to do so, the state is partnering with Georgia Health System to “double down” on testing capacity.
- With the latest coronavirus cases, Kemp said the state was in a place on the curve that hospitals could resume elective surgeries which were deemed essential.
“I am confident that together we will emerge victorious from this war we have been fighting.” – Brian Kemp
- In all, over 19,000 people have tested positive for coronavirus, and 774 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
- Bill Lee, the Republican governor of Tennessee announced his mandatory safer at home order will expire on April 30, which will pave the way for 89 out of the state’s 95 counties to begin opening businesses on May 1 if not sooner.
“While I am not extending the safer at home order past the end of April, we are working directly with our major metropolitan areas to ensure they are in a position to reopen as soon and as safely as possible.” – Bill Lee
- Lee said the details of which businesses will be allowed to reopen would be finalized by his economy recovery team later this week. “It will be phased, it will be smart, and it will be strategic,” Lee said, stressing that the states economy cannot survive being locked down long-term.
- Lee said that his administration will work with some of the state’s most populated counties and their health departments as they plan their own reopening strategies, including the counties surrounding Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Knoxville.
- Over the weekend, a handful of protestors gathered in Nashville and Chattanooga to urge officials to reopen the economy. As of Monday, state officials said Tennessee had more than 7,200 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and at least 152 deaths.
- South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster on Monday announced the details of “Accelerate South Carolina,” which includes several key leaders in the state including mayors, presidents of institutions of higher learning, business owners and health care professionals.
- Its first meeting is scheduled for Thursday, with plans to hold multiple sessions over the next 30 days. Establishments including, restaurants, bars, manufacturers, dentist offices and several others have closed for a variety of reasons, including mandatory orders from McMaster issued to stem the outbreak.
- During a media briefing, McMaster acknowledged that, even though the virus continues to spread, he saw it as crucial to both manage the outbreak and shore up the economy in hopes of avoiding disastrous, long lasting effects.
- Thus far, South Carolina public health officials have reported a total of more than 4,400 COVID-19 cases, including 64 new cases on Monday, which have resulted in 124 deaths statewide. State epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell admitted the state has not seen a significant downward trend in coronavirus cases for 14 days, as the White House recommended.
- Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said the decision to reopen was made based on arbitrary dates rather than data. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said he supported McMaster’s plan – calling it a “small reopening.”
- Last week, nearly 88,000 people filed for unemployment, bringing the statewide total of those who live or work in South Carolina saying they lost their jobs because of the outbreak to more than 268,000 – more than 10 percent of the state’s total labor force of nearly 2.4 million.
The governor’s official stay at home order remains in place, although that mandate already allowed the patronage of essential businesses such as grocery stores, pharmacies, home improvement stores and medical facilities.