FOX5 Atlanta – Gov. Brian Kemp says Georgia is on track to meet the criteria to begin easing social distancing and reopening Georgia’s economy as health officials continue battling the spread of COVID-19.
In a recent press conference, Kemp brought up the struggles of contract workers, small businesses, and Georgia farmers, saying that he “hears the concerns of those I am honored to serve” and that the state has been seeing positive signs that lead him to start the process of reopening the state.
The governor mentioned that one of the major focuses to meet the requirements of President Donald Trump’s guidelines would be testing. In order to do so, the state would be partnering with the Georgia Health system to “double down” on testing capacity.
Gov. Brian Kemp announced the next steps in reopening Georgia, allowing certain businesses to resume operations by following certain restrictions.
“Testing defines the battlefield and aids our long term strategy,” Kemp said, bringing up that the National Guard would be working with GEMA to help with testing thousands of Georgians.
With the latest coronavirus cases, Kemp said the state was a place on the curve that hospitals could resume elective surgeries which were deemed essential.
Given the favorable data, Kemp said that gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, beauty shops and salons, barbershops, body art studios, and more would be able to open Friday, April 24.
Kemp said the reopening of these businesses “would not be business-as-usual” and would require companies to implement changes to ensure sanitation mandates and social distancing.
The governor also said that movie theaters and restaurants, which were previously banned from in-person dining, would be allowed to reopen on Monday, April 27 with certain restrictions to be announced later this week. That delay would allow Georgia more time to flatten the curve and allow the businesses to prepare to be ready to open.
Georgia reopens when the CDC is based right here in Atlanta? Make it make sense. 🤔🤔🤔
— Everything Georgia (@GAFollowers) April 21, 2020
“By taking this measured action, we will get Georgians back to work safely, without undermining the progress we all have made in this battle against COVID-19,” Kemp said. “Today’s announcement is a small step forward and should be treated as such.”
“We definitely have a plateauing and what appears now, a decline,” Dr. Kathleen Toomey said
Bars, nightclubs, and amusement parks would remain closed until further notice, the governor said.
“Georgians who are small business owners, those people have good common sense and we’re trusting them to use it, but if they abuse it, we will take further action,” Kemp said. “But I believe they can do it as part of this measured approach.”
While Georgians may be cautious going back to businesses, Kemp said that he hopes the private sector could help convince them.
“If they don’t, we have the ability to act on that,” he said.
The governor also urged religious institutions to continue to help with social distancing. He asked faith leaders to heed the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and continue drive-in and online services to help with those guidelines.
Georgia DPH Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey and state officials discuss the data that is driving the decision to slowly begin to reopen the state.
“I think this is the right approach at the right time,” Kemp said. “It’s not just throwing the keys back to the owners of the businesses.”
Kemp said with the reopenings he expected cases of the virus to increase, but believed that the state would be able to stay on top of it with increased hospital capacity. State officials would also be on the lookout for any possible hot spots for the virus.
“These are tough decisions, no doubt. And I will have to make more of them,” Kemp said, adding that he didn’t “give a damn about politics right now” when asked what the political impact of his decisions might be.
Gov. Brian Kemp spoke candidly when asked how the decisions he is making in Georgia’s COVID-19 response have weighed on him.
Dr. Kathleen E. Toomey, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health said that the state’s decision to slowly begin to reopen has been driven by data collected about coronavirus cases.
“We definitely have a plateauing and what appears now, a decline, and by the end of the week and certainly by the end of shelter in place, that will be a two-week decline that’s required to remove the shelter in place, more than a two-week decline,” Toomey said, adding the number of deaths from the coronavirus has also dramatically declined.
She credited that with the healthcare system being aggressive and expanded testing.
Health officials say Georgia’s death toll from COVID-19 has risen above 700 as new numbers were reported Monday at noon. At least 733 deaths statewide have been linked to the virus, the Georgia Department of Public Health said. Infections have been confirmed in nearly 19,000 people.
For most people, the coronavirus that caused this year’s pandemic causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, it can cause severe illness such as pneumonia, or even death.
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