Georgia Governor Defends Reopening Decision After Trump’s Criticism

Headwinds For Reopening If SMBs Can't Rehire

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, who was against COVID-19 stay-at-home mandates from the start, is preparing to open the state on Friday (April 24), despite the advice of medical experts, President Trump and even some of his own constituents.

During the daily coronavirus briefing on Thursday (April 23), Trump said that he “disagrees strongly” with Kemp’s executive action to allow businesses such as nail salons and barbershops to reopen.

“I told the governor … I disagree strongly with his decision to open certain facilities which are in violation of the Phase 1 guidelines for the incredible people of Georgia,” Trump said. “… but he has to do what he thinks is right.”

The coronavirus task force had to convince Trump to reverse his view on the Republican governor’s decision to reopen the state, a source close to the task force told CNN. Panel coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx met with Trump privately right before the press briefing and “convinced him to denounce Kemp’s decision.”

Kemp stayed the course and responded to the president on Twitter, saying he would still allow close-contact businesses to resume operations on Friday in order to “protect the lives – and livelihoods – of all Georgians.”

The governor’s executive order states that gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, barbers, cosmetologists, hair designers, nail care artists, estheticians, their respective schools and massage therapists can begin engaging in minimum basic operations on Friday (April 24). Restaurants and dining rooms of private social clubs will be allowed to reopen on a limited basis on Monday (April 27). Theaters can reopen on Monday as well, but are subject to new restrictions that will be announced by Kemp.

Bars, nightclubs, amusement park ride operators and live performance venues will remain closed through at least May 13.

“I think spas, beauty salons and tattoo parlors and barbershops … it’s just too soon. I love those people who use all those things, but they can wait a little bit longer,” Trump said.

As far as houses of worship, the governor’s order indicates that they can open now.

“Nothing prevents a place of worship from hosting an in-person service, and the state will not stand in the way of these efforts. However, places of worship should maintain strict social distancing if they choose to return to in-person services. Parishioners should maintain at least six feet of distance from those persons that do not cohabitate with them,” the order says.

Many Georgia residents, including mayors and business owners, are not on board with the governor’s decision to re-open early.

“I’m definitely not opening this Friday. I don’t have a calendar date for opening,” Decatur, Georgia barbershop owner Diane Fall told CNBC on Thursday (April 24).

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson called the decision “reckless, premature and dangerous,” and many other mayors in Georgia expressed alarm.

As of 12 p.m. on Thursday (April 23), Georgia had 21,512 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, with 4,069 people still hospitalized. The death toll had reached 872. Georgia ranks 12th in the U.S. for states with the most COVID-19 cases.