In a Monday afternoon press conference, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp laid out his plan to reopen Georgia businesses, beginning Friday, April 24. That includes allowing movie theaters to reopen and restaurants to resume dine-in service on Monday, April 27, with stricter sanitation and health and safety protocols in place.
Businesses like gyms, hair salons and barbers, nail salons, and bowling alleys can resume business on Friday. For now, bars, nightclubs, sports stadiums, and entertainment venues across the state must remain closed.
Kemp says new health and safety guidelines for the state’s restaurants and businesses should be released later this week. They will likely include “minimum basic operations, social distancing and regular sanitation” measures, like screening workers for fevers and COVID-19 symptoms, requiring employees to wear gloves and masks when appropriate, staggering shifts, and allowing a distance of six feet or more between workstations.
“I see the terrible impact of COVID-19 on public health, as well as the pocketbook,” he says of why he’s choosing to ease off some of the restrictions on businesses earlier than expected. “I can tell you I don’t give a damn about politics right now, we’re talking about somebody that has put their whole life into building a business.”
In a tweet during the press conference, House District 89 representative Bee Nguyen didn’t mince words on Kemp’s intention to ease off statewide COVID-19 restrictions, “Did I miss the memo that Georgia has COVID under control? There are outbreaks at our poultry plant, Plant Vogtle, and churches. Yet, we are re-opening gyms, restaurants, and in-service churches? And pre-empting local control? What did I miss here?”
The move comes after a model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation suggests Georgia may have passed its peak of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths late last week. However, more testing is needed to continue to accurately measure and monitor the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Georgia. Health officials warn reopening portions of the economy too soon could result in a resurgence in cases across the state.
Following the governor’s press conference, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms responded by issuing an administrative order to convene an advisory council to determine how to safely reopen the city.
“Reopening the city must be executed in a cautious manner that is best suited for Atlanta,” Bottoms says in the order. “The Advisory Council will provide the necessary input and buy-in from Atlanta stakeholders to outline a safe and thoughtful framework to get our economy back on track without endangering public health.”
Bottoms asks Atlanta residents to “please stay at home,” in an interview with ABC News Prime, stating that she’s unsure what data the governor is using to make his decision to lift statewide restrictions on certain businesses.
There are now 19,399 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Georgia, with 775 reported deaths, as of 7 p.m. Monday evening. The state’s shelter-in-place order expires on Thursday, April 30, at 11:59 p.m. Kemp urges “medically fragile” people to remain home through at least May 13.
Eater Atlanta reached out to restaurant owners on Monday night for their reactions to dining rooms reopening on April 27. Read the full story here, with comments from the owners of Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q, Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours, El Ponce, and JenChan’s Restaurant.
Stay home if sick. Check the Georgia Department of Public Health website for guidance and twice-daily updates on the latest number of reported COVID-19 cases.