Gov. Brian Kemp announces business reopening plans amid COVID-19 pandemic

Anthony Belinfante

ATLANTA – Gov. Brian Kemp announced Monday that certain businesses may reopen in the next few days despite Georgia being in the top 20 states nationwide for total number of COVID-19 cases, according to CDC data.

In an attempt to reopen aspects of the economy in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the governor will allow “gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, barbers, cosmetologists, hair designers, nail care artists, estheticians, their respective schools and massage therapists” to open their doors Friday, according to his address Monday.

The following Monday on April 27, Georgia theaters, private social clubs and restaurant dine-in services will be allowed to reopen as well.

Bars, nightclubs, amusement parks and live performance venues will remain closed, according to the address.

The initiative comes after President Trump announced new guidelines regarding social distancing restrictions. After originally extending social distancing until April 30, Trump has now allowed state governors to make their own decisions in regard to the matter.

“Last week, the White House issued guidelines for states to begin to safely reopen our nation’s economy,” Kemp said in the address. “We appreciate their leadership and share in the president’s desire to reopen the economy and get Americans back to work.”

Georgia will continue to follow the shelter in place order until April 30 despite business openings, and residents are being encouraged to still practice social distancing. Elderly residents are being encouraged to shelter in place until May 13, Kemp said.

“We urge everyone to continue to follow CDC and DPH guidance by sheltering in place as often as you can,” Kemp said in the address. “Limit your travel and limit who goes with you on errands to prevent potential exposure.”

Along with the announcement of an economic reopening, Kemp also gave an update on the amount of confirmed COVID-19 cases and related deaths in Georgia.

As of Monday at noon, there were approximately 18,947 cases in the state with 733 deaths, according to the governor’s address. By the 7 p.m. update of the DPH’s Daily Status Report that day, there were 19,398 cases and 774 deaths listed.

Despite a large number of cases, Kemp said the latest data has been favorable.

“According to the Department of Public Health, reports of emergency room visits for flu-like illnesses are declining, documented COVID-19 cases have flattened and appear to be declining, and we have seen declining emergency room visits in general,” Kemp said in the address.

Kemp said he believes the states will overcome the challenges and obstacles ahead as the economy begins to recover, and that the state must identify opportunities for economic growth and prosperity.

“While I am encouraged by the data, proud of what we have accomplished, and confident of our plan moving forward, I know that the journey ahead is long. We must remain laser-focused on defeating this virus and keeping Georgians safe,” Kemp said in the address.

Anthony Belinfante, The George-Anne News Reporter,