Kemp's decision to roll back COVID-19 business restrictions brings mixed reactions

Updated: Apr 24

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s decisions to modify his April 2 Shelter-In-Place order incited more dismay, concern and confusion than the issuing of the initial order.

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Kemp announced Monday, April 20, that certain businesses would be allowed to reopen as of tomorrow, April 24, and cleared the way for further return-to-normal allowances beginning Monday.


The action was greeted with extensive citizen comment and online debate on social media, with some citizens strongly supporting the Governor’s efforts to ease the fiscal hardships placed on owners and employees of a limited and specified sector of businesses. Many others, including not only citizens but some Georgia county and municipal officials and neighboring state leadership, expressed shock and disapproval of Kemp’s actions, terming it “too soon” and a “dangerous move.”


Reopen GA, a Facebook Group with more than 24,000 members, were planning an April 24 drive-through demonstration in Atlanta to pressure Kemp into easing the measures implemented against specific business sectors in his Shelter-In-Place Executive Order. Concerns expressed by the group included detrimental impacts on “families, small businesses, and Georgia’s populations most vulnerable to the effects of income loss and isolation, especially rates of food and housing insecurity, suicide, domestic violence, and stress-induced disease.“


Following Kemp’s April 20 announcement of the alterations to the Shelter In Place order, the group cancelled the demonstration via a post to the Facebook group.


“Yesterday, #ReopenGA got a huge win. The state of Georgia got a huge win. No, our state is not ENTIRELY open yet, but we’ve definitely headed in the right direction,” founder Ryan Lawson stated.


Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin expressed his support of Kemp’s decision by posting on Facebook that he would be patronizing some of the re-opened businesses as soon as they opened.


Former AR Gov. and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee took to Twitter to post “Georgia opening hair salons and tattoo parlors Friday. I’m driving to GA this weekend to get a haircut and tattoo.”


A majority of the reaction from fellow politicians, however, has ranged from mildly rebuking to scathing condemnation.


"I worry that our friends and neighbors in Georgia are going too fast too soon. We respect Georgia's right to determine its own fate, but we are all in this together," South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted Tuesday: "What happens in Georgia will impact us in South Carolina."


Atlanta Democrat Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who had wanted to enact stronger restrictions in Atlanta before Kemp’s Shelter-In-Place order banned local legislation that conflicted with Kemp’s Order, stated that she is considering legal options to oppose Kemp’s reopening of specified businesses.


“I have searched my head and my heart on this and I am at a loss as to what the governor is basing this decision on,"she said in an interview with CNN. "You have to live to fight another day. And you have to be able to be amongst the living to be able to recover."


President Donald Trump reversed his earlier praise of Kemp and expressed his disagreement with the decision to begin reopening Georgia.


On Monday, Kemp, along with Govs. Henry McMaster of South Carolina and Bill Lee of Tennessee, announced intentions to roll back COVID-related restrictions.


Lee announced that the “vast majority” of businesses could reopen by May 1 in all but the most populated counties, with some opening as early as April 27, while McMaster allowed beaches to open and said florists and furniture stores could do business by Monday evening.


These announcements were met with enthusiastic support from Trump, who Tweeted “States are safely coming back. Our Country is starting to OPEN FOR BUSINESS again. Special care is, and always will be, given to our beloved seniors (except me!). Their lives will be better than ever...WE LOVE YOU ALL!”


However, on Wednesday, Trump reversed his stand, saying he disagreed with Kemp’s actions.


"I told the governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, that I disagree strongly with his decision to open certain facilities," Trump said at a White House coronavirus news conference. “I want him to do what he thinks is right but I disagree with him on what he is doing but I want to let the governors do... now if I say something totally egregious, totally out of line I will do it but I think spas and beauty salons and tattoo parlors and barbershops in phase 1. We're going to have phase 2 very soon is just too soon.”


Despite his disapproval of Kemp’s timing, Trump stressed his intention to leave decisions in the hands of state officials.


“Look, I'd like them to listen to their governors, all of their governors. I have the right to do if I wanted to clamp it down but I have respect for our governors. They know what they're doing,” Trump said in response to a question asking if he would advise residents to not listen to Kemp. “And as you know, Brian Kemp, governor of Georgia, I worked very hard for his election.there's a lot of good feeling between myself and Brian. I like him a lot. I happen to just disagree with him only in time – in timing. I disagree. When you have spas, beauty parlors--and I love these people. I know the people from spas and beauty parlors, tattoo parlors. Bikers for Trump, a lot of tattoos. I love them. I love these people. And barber shops, these are great people. But you know what? Maybe you wait a little bit longer till you get into a phase 2. So, do I agree with him? No. But I respect him and I will let him make his decision.”


Georgia Rep. Doug Collins expressed disappointment that Kemp had not communicated his plans prior to announcing the easing of restrictions.


"I will tell you this: My concern was not having the local input into that," Collins said Thursday, referencing comments made by city and county officials in opposition to Kemp’s decision. ""I think clear communication is what has to happen," he said. "But when you're telling people to still stay at home, but yet we're going to open certain businesses, that creates a problem in which people are not sure what to do. Leadership is about communicating, and when you are not communicating clearly — look, the governor did not take away the stay-at-home order, but yet selectively decided certain businesses are going to open up."


Collins’ comments failed to acknowledge that the “selectively decided” businesses were not arbitrarily chosen, but were the specific businesses that were singled out in Kemp’s Shelter-In-Place Order as the only businesses mandated to close, and thus those most financially-impacted by the order.


Some health officials have also expressed opinions on Kemp’s actions.


Dr. Carlos del Rio, an infectious disease specialist at Emory University, told reporters he understood Kemp’s desire to address economic hardships, but stressed the importance of safety measures such as the Minimum Basic Operations stipulations that the newly-reopened businesses will be subject to.


“We need to make sure we have appropriate safeguards in place, and individuals need to make their own decisions,” del Rio said. “Just because the governor says gyms are open doesn’t mean you need to go to gyms.”


“If I were advising the governor, I would tell him that he should be careful and I would advise him not to just turn the switch and go because there is a danger of a rebound,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and White House health advisor. “I plead with the American public, with the governors, with the mayors for the people of your responsibility, although I know one has the need to leap frog over things, don’t do that. Do it in a measured way. This is a successful formula. The problem is if we don’t do that, there is a likelihood that we will have a rebound.”


We’re not just throwing the keys and saying, ‘Open up, business as usual,’” Kemp said. “We’ll do what we need to do to keep our citizens safe. That’s my No. 1 priority.”


FYI

GEORGIA GOV. BRIAN KEMP’S ROLLBACK OF RESTRICTIONS – EXECUTIVE ORDER 04-20-20-01

Effective through April 30 at 11:59 p.m. unless extended by action of the Governor.

Shelter-in-Place order - All residents and visitors to the state shall practice social distancing and sanitation in accordance with CDC guidelines. . UNCHANGED BY KEMP’S 4/20 RESTRICTION ROLLBACK

Shelter-in-Place order - No business or organization shall allow more than 10 persons to be gathered at a single location unless they can stand or be seated more than six feet from any other person who is not a family member or resident of the same household. UNCHANGED BY KEMP’S 4/20 RESTRICTION ROLLBACK

Shelter-in-Place order - Residents and visitors to the state shall stay in their residences unless they are 1) Participating in Essential Services,2) Performing Necessary Travel,3) Are members of Critical Infrastructure workforce actively engaged in work duties, 4) Are performing Minimum Basic Operations for non-critical infrastructure businesses other than businesses specifically directed to cease operations. UNCHANGED BY KEMP’S 4/20 RESTRICTION ROLLBACK, EXCEPT AS NOTED IN RED.

Shelter-in-Place order - Necessary travel permitted is limited to, travel required to conduct or participate in Essential Services, Minimum Basic Operations or Critical Infrastructure travel and duties. UNCHANGED BY KEMP’S 4/20 RESTRICTION ROLLBACK

Shelter-in-Place order - Critical Infrastructure businesses may continue in-person operations but must comply with a list of 16 measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19. LIST OF 16 MEASURES UNCHANGED. List of businesses considered critical Infrastructure amended to include updates to US Department of Homeland Security Guidance on Essential Critical Infrastructure as follows: Version 3.0 of the guidance clarifies and expands critical infrastructure workers in several categories ... Several updates were made to the Healthcare/Public Health category, clarifying worker categories related to health care, public and environmental health, emergency medical services, and aligning related job functions. Updated language focused on sustained access and freedom of movement;A reference to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance on safety for critical infrastructure workers;Language noting the essential role of workers focused on information technology and operational technology;Clearer guidance that sick workers should avoid the job site;A reference to the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Marine Safety Information Bulletin on essential maritime workers;Clarified language to include vehicle manufactures; judges and lawyers supporting the judicial system; agricultural jobs; transportation-specific education.

Shelter-in-Place order - All businesses and organizations that are not categorized as Critical Infrastructure , or are not specifically identified by business type as being required to close for business by this order, may perform “Minimum Basic Operations, which includes remaining open, for business, as long as they comply with a list of 20 measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19. UNCHANGED BY KEMP’S 4/20 RESTRICTION ROLLBACK - Definition of minimum basic operations remains unchanged, list of 20 measures unchanged. Note change in ”business types required to close” in red below.

Shelter-in-Place order - Gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, theaters, live performance venues, operators of amusement rides, body art studios, barbers, cosmetologists, salons, home beauty shops, estheticians, hair designers, massage therapists and bars must close to the public. Restaurants and private social clubs must cease providing dine-in services. Businesses licensed as bars were mandated to close by an earlier Executive Order. All businesses listed above except theaters, live performance venues, operators of amusement rides, restaurants, private social clubs and bars may conduct minimum basic operations, as defined above, including in-person operations, on Friday, April 20. These businesses must must comply with the 20 measures to mitigate COVID exposure and transmission as identified for non critical-infrastructure businesses in the original Order. NOTE: Gov. Kemp indicated in his 4/20 address that Restaurant and private social club dining rooms would be allowed to re-open on Monday, April 27. Bars, nightclubs, amusement park ride operators, and live performance venues will remain closed through May 13 when the Public Health State of Emergency is set to expire.


4/20 Restriction RollbackBusiness-related directives in the 4/20 Restriction Rollback that did not address corresponding regulations in the Shelter-In-Place Order include: All medical, dental, orthodontics, and optometry practices, physical therapists, ambulatory surgical centers, medical facilities and any and all other healthcare practices and services that have elected to cease operations because of the spread of COVID-19 should begin treating patients as soon as practicable in accordance with CDC and Medicaid guidelines. All healthcare-related practices should NOT be subject to Minimum Basic Operations restrictions, but should consider implementing the 16 operational guidelines provided in the Shelter-In-Place Order for Critical Infrastructure businesses and workforce.

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