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Kemp Says Businesses Can Start Reopening This Week


Gov. Brian Kemp.

Gov. Brian Kemp will start allowing some businesses that have been shuttered since his shelter-in-place order Apr. 2—longer in Athens—to start reopening over the next week.

Gyms, bowling alleys, tattoo parlors, hair salons and massage studios can re-open Friday, as long as they practice social distance, follow hygiene guidelines, Kemp announced at a news conference this afternoon. Restaurant dining rooms and movie theaters will be allowed to open next Monday if they follow rules Kemp said his office will release later this week.

Kemp’s order came as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Georgia approached 20,000, with 733 reported deaths as of noon. The head of the World Health Organization warned earlier today that the worst of the coronavirus pandemic is still ahead.

However, Kemp said he is concerned about Georgians “going broke worried about whether they can feed their children and make the mortgage payment.” Nearly 1 million people have filed unemployment claims since the pandemic started.

Like his shelter-in-place mandate, Kemp’s new policy will supercede any local regulations. Athens-Clarke County passed its own shelter-in-place ordinance Mar. 19, but Kemp overrode local regulations with his Apr. 2 order. He said today that he still wants to avoid a “hodgepodge” of local rules.

Mayor Kelly Girtz said it’s “premature” to start allowing businesses to re-open, and he would want to continue the local shelter-in-place ordinance.

“Were we able to, I certainly would [continue to require people to shelter in place], given the amount of testing and contact tracing necessary for a broader reopening is not with us,” Girtz said.

Kemp is also ordering Augusta University, the state’s public medical school, to work with the state Department of Public Health to offer more testing.