As if Memorial Day weekend in Atlanta — even during a pandemic — didn’t cause enough traffic woes, Vice President Mike Pence flew into town to meet with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and restaurant executives at Waffle House headquarters in Norcross to discuss the state’s reopening plan.
After flying into Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, the vice president and governor made a pitstop for lunch today at Northwest Atlanta diner Star Cafe on Marietta Boulevard.
Photos posted to social media by WSB reporter Richard Elliott, AJC photojournalist John Spink, and AJC reporter Tamar Hallerman show Gov. Kemp and Vice President Pence speaking to the owners, staff, and diners at Star Cafe, and lunching on pulled pork and meatloaf paired with sweet tea. The governor even managed to snap a photo.
Gov. Kemp and VP Pence lunching at the Star Cafe in Atlanta discussing Georgia's pandemic strategy - https://t.co/YD8Y0N8ZNx #Atlanta #covid_19 pic.twitter.com/K7EqZ0oMJb— John Spink (@johnjspink) May 22, 2020
Despite the governor urging the public to face wear masks and to social distance during the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis, neither Gov. Kemp or the vice president — or most of their entourage — entered the restaurant wearing a mask or when conversing with people before dining, and social distancing seemed to be on the back-burner. The CDC recommends people wear face masks to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in public, especially within enclosed spaces or in close contact with between people who aren’t members of the same household. However, Elliott reports Georgia First Lady Mary Kemp did pass around hand sanitizer.
Hallerman reports that there were about three dozen people inside the restaurant during the lunchtime visit. Tables seem to be spaced out six feet or more apart. The restaurant’s employees and owner are all seen wearing face masks, in accordance with the governor’s 39 COVID-19 requirements for Georgia restaurants open for dine-in service.
Pence ordered a sweet tea as he took a seat at his table in the middle of the restaurant. First Lady Marty Kemp offered him hand sanitizer #GaPol pic.twitter.com/A0SGZDcndW— Tamar Hallerman (@TamarHallerman) May 22, 2020
This is the first official visit by the White House to Georgia, following a public rebuke last month by President Donald Trump of the governor and his handling of Georgia’s reopening strategy. The president “disagreed strongly” with Gov. Kemp’s decision to reopen certain businesses and to allow restaurants to reopen for dine-in service at the end of April, which he said was in “violation of the phase one guidelines” set forth by the White House COVID-19 task force.
It’s been nearly a month since Georgia’s restaurants were allowed to reopen for dine-in service on April 27. Last week, the governor allowed restaurants to increase the party size limit from six to ten people per table and the dining capacity from ten patrons per 500 square feet to ten patrons per 300 square feet. All other guidelines remain in place through May 31, unless otherwise extended by Gov. Kemp.
Stay home if sick. Check the Georgia Department of Public Health website for guidance and updates on the latest number of reported COVID-19 cases. Numbers are now updated three times a day.