Georgia, Alaska and Oklahoma Take Small Steps to Reopen

Saturday - 25/04/2020 10:42
But is reopening the states too soon?

The States of Georgia, Alaska, Oklahoma and others have announced plans to start relaxing restrictions during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, prompting mixed responses from politicians, health experts, and the general public.

The nationwide death toll from COVID-19 stands at 51,949, according to Johns Hopkins University, with nearly 5 million tests being conducted across the country.

Health experts have warned that the nation will need to be performing up to 30 million tests a week before considering relaxing any social distancing rules, echoing the guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO). To date, Georgia has conducted 107,176 tests, with 22,491 coming back positive, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

Last week the Georgia Gov. Brian P. Kemp addressed the public on reopening the state: "In the same way that we carefully closed businesses and urged operations to end to mitigate the virus' spread, today, we are announcing plans to incrementally, and safely, reopen sectors of our economy.

Getty Images Georgia Nail Salons
Debi Dang works on the nails of a customer at Allure Nail Bar in Atlanta on April 24, 2020.

"Given the favorable data, enhanced testing and approval of our healthcare professionals, we will allow gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, barbers, cosmetologists, hair designers, nail care artists, estheticians, their respective schools and massage therapists to reopen their doors this Friday, April 24, 2020."

Governor Kemp said these jobs and businesses have been unable to "manage inventory, deal with payroll, and take care of administrative items while we shelter in place." As these businesses opened in Georgia, the Department of Public Health announced three more deaths from the disease, bringing the total to 899.

In Oklahoma, salons, spas, and barbershops were also allowed to be reopened, with Alaska allowing restaurants, retail shops and other businesses to open their doors, all with limitations. Speaking to the Associated Press, Amy Pembrook and her husband reopened their hair salon in the northwest Oklahoma town of Fairview after it had been shut for about a month and expressed excitement about going back to work, but have caught some criticism from people who believe it's too early.

"We just said we can live in fear for a long time or we can trust that everything is going to be OK," Pembrook told the AP.

The early reopening of these States has drawn mixed responses.

On Twitter, Rep. Mary Francis Williams wrote: "I don't believe relaxing current restrictions is the right move until we have a sustained decline in new positive cases and easier access to testing. I joined my fellow House Democrats to demand the Governor rescind his order. Georgia needs more time."


Georgia State Rep. Bee Nguyen commented to CNN that she believes the actions were "premature and reckless." "It reflects a failure of our federal and state government to provide the necessary economic relief," she says.

Speaking to ABC News, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms expressed her concern about the governor's announcement: "Our biggest outbreak in the state came from two funerals... for us to go back to opening up houses of worship just seems a bit premature to me." Following her comments, Bottoms received racial abuse, which she shared on her Twitter account.


Former democratic state representative Stacey Abrams spoke to The View about the potential wider impact on others as well as small business owners: "The mayors of our largest cities have all expressed deep concern. As have our scientists. Georgia is not flattening the curve. We have one of the highest rates of infection and one of the lowest rates of testing, but what's even more concerning is that he tends to treat this as an issue of small business owners.

"What I know, as a former small business owner, is people are going to be sent to the front lines and they're the least resilient," she said. "They likely don't have health insurance and they won't have protective equipment. Most importantly, they can't afford to say no if they're told to go back to work."

A Twitter user, @SaintRobin911 wrote that certain facilities are also loosening restrictions: "My 92 year old father lives in assisted living in Georgia. Yesterday they were told that the facility will be relaxing #COVID19 restrictions. How is this not willful negligence and even homicide? #StayHomeGeorgia."

The elderly are one of the groups most vulnerable to COVID-19.


The AP reported that President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence "repeatedly told Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp that they approved of his aggressive plan to allow businesses to reopen."

Getty Images Georgia Hair dressers
Esra Demir styles the hair of customer Ken Menendez at Salon Loft in Atlanta, Georgia on April 24, 2020.
Governor Brian Kemp has eased restrictions allowing some businesses such as hair and nail salons to reopen today in the
US state of Georgia after a four-week lockdown to stop the spread of the coronavirus. 

The president wrote on Twitter: "I (or @VP) never gave Governor Brian Kemp an OK on those few businesses outside of the Guidelines. FAKE NEWS! Spas, beauty salons, tattoo parlors, & barber shops should take a little slower path, but I told the Governor to do what is right for the great people of Georgia (& USA)!"

Newsweek has contacted Gov. Kemp for comment.



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