ATLANTA — In a press conference outside of the state Capitol on Monday afternoon, Governor Brian Kemp announced that he would allow certain businesses to reopen their doors on Friday following a three-week-long order to close up shop due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kemp insisted that this is the best approach to balance economic and safety concerns.  The governor said that the state is following all federal guidelines that President Trump gave the governors last week to begin to reopen states’ economies.

Kemp’s announcement comes under harsh criticism as Georgia’s COVID-19 cases reached 18,947 and the death toll hit 733 at noon on Monday, April 20. Kemp took a lot of heat for being one of the last governors to issue a shelter in place order.  When issued, his order for Georgia superseded local governments’ orders which were often stricter than the one he issued. Now the governor is one of the first governors to reopen businesses amid this pandemic.

According to the latest order issued by Kemp, the following businesses may reopen on Friday, April 24:  gyms and fitness centers, nail salons, hair salons, bowling alleys, tattoo shops, and massage therapists.  They must adhere to a set of guidelines. Businesses must follow social distancing guidelines, screen workers for fever, workers who are ill are not to be allowed to work, increase sanitation measures, among other guidelines set by the state.

Dine-in restaurants and theaters will be allowed to reopen on April 27.  They too must follow a list of guidelines to operate.

Kemp’s statewide shelter-in-place order does not expire until the end of the month although his order gives people more opportunities to conduct “essential business.” Residents who are medically fragile are encouraged to continue to isolate themselves at home until at least mid-May the governor related at Monday’s press conference.

The order gives medical offices, dental offices, physical therapists, optometrists, and other healthcare facilities that closed because of the novel coronavirus the right to reopen their doors and begin treating patients again.  It also gives healthcare facilities the okay to proceed with elective procedures. Kemp claimed that there is enough personal protective equipment in the state although some healthcare facilities insist that the supply chain has not opened up enough.

Kemp and Dr. Kathleen Toomey, the state public health commissioner told the public at the press conference that the governor’s plan is in compliance with the guidelines set forth by the Trump administration.  In order to begin to reopen businesses states must have adequate hospital, testing, and contact-tracing capacity.

The easing of restrictions does not impact schools as they will remain closed.

Many Georgians are afraid that Kemp’s latest order will cause a resurgence of new COVID-19 cases although Toomey said that hospitals all over the state are seeing fewer patients with flu-like symptoms.

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