Customers return to businesses in Georgia Friday as the state’s toll from the coronavirus neared 900.
What We Know:
- Governor Bryan Kemp, who was one of the last state officials to issue a shelter in place order to decrease the spread of the virus, became one of the first to roll back such restrictions, signing an executive order on Monday allowing an assortment of high-touch businesses to continue operations.
- Kemp said that reopening more of the state’s economy would minimize the “terrible impact of Covid-19 on public health and the pocketbook”.
- Some business owners who could benefit from the order are criticizing the governor’s choice to reopen. They’re concerned that doing so could endanger their health, as well as the health of their employees and customers. Their fears are echoed by public health officials, White House health adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci, and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, among others, who have criticized Kemp’s order as premature and potentially dangerous.
- The order could jeopardize some businesses’ finances, as the state-mandated closure of nonessential businesses had helped them obtain temporary relief from landlords, lenders, insurers, or government aid programs.
- “It’s a nightmare,” says Ben Horgan, co-owner of the Comet Pub and Lanes, a bowling alley and brewery in Decatur, Georgia. Horgan closed the business on March 16, weeks before government orders, out of concern for the safety of staff and customers; the closure affected roughly 100 employees. “We haven’t gotten any guidelines on how to [safely] reopen,” he says. “At this point, it’s hard to know if our elected officials even care about when it’s going to be safe, or if they’re just [focused] on reopening the economy, whatever that means.”
- Kemp’s executive order means that hair salons, massage parlors, tattoo studios, and gyms are allowed to open Friday as long as they follow the state’s social distancing guidelines. On Monday, movie theaters, bowling alleys, and dine in restaurants will open. Night clubs and bars will remain closed.
- Some national chains are also criticizing the governor’s decision to reopen. Macy’s, Gap, and TGI Fridays told The Wall Street Journal that their Georgia locations will remain closed for the time being. Other chains that have shifted to a takeout or curbside-pickup only model, such as Starbucks and Best Buy, aren’t planning to welcome customers back into their stores either.
- The order also puts some laid-off workers receiving unemployment benefits in a tight spot. Grocery store workers and medical staffers, employees called back to work by businesses reopening under Kemp’s order will lose jobless benefits if they stay home.
Georgia has more than 22,000 confirmed cases of the virus and 894 deaths, according to state statistics. Public health experts have warned that reopening too quickly could trigger a coronavirus resurgence. Preventing that will require increased testing and robust tracking of infected people’s contacts.