Southern states are moving to get economies going again.
In a move to kickstart his state’s economy, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced Monday that nonessential businesses can reopen Friday and restaurants can serve dine-in customers once again the following week.
The governor said gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, barbers, cosmetologists, and more would be able to open their doors by the end of this week. On Monday, April 27, theaters, private social clubs and restaurant dine-in services will return albeit with “specific social distancing and sanitation mandates.” Bars, nightclubs, amusement parks, and performance venues will remain closed. More information about guidelines will be released in the coming days.
In addition, places of worship will be allowed to hold in-person services and essential elective surgeries will be allowed.
Kemp said this move will be the operational standard, meaning local authorities cannot make rules more or less restrictive.
“By taking this measured action, we will get Georgians back to work safely without undermining the progress that we have all made in the battle against COVID-19,” Kemp said in a statement. [Monday’s] announcement is a small step forward and should be treated as such.”
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said Monday that his state’s stay at home order will expire at the end of the month and that the state will begin reopening its economy. The Tennessee governor said the vast majority of businesses in 89 counties will be able to reopen May 1 and some by April 27.
On Monday South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster announced the immediate reopening of nonessential retail locations such as furniture stores, clothing stores, sporting goods stores, and more.
The news comes after the Trump administration released a three-phased plan for governors to use when making decisions about their respective economies. As part of the plan, it’s recommended that states not begin the multi-phase process until there’s a downward trajectory of reported symptoms in a two-week period and a downward movement of documented cases or positive tests in a two-week period. Hospitals must also be able to treat all patients without crisis care and have robust testing in place.
Kemp said the state is “on track to meeting phase one,” which calls for venues like restaurants and movie theaters to operate under “strict physical distancing protocols.”
“According to the Department of Public Health, reports of emergency room visits for flu-like illnesses are declining, documented COVID-19 cases have flattened and appear to be declining, and we have seen declining emergency room visits in general,” Kemp said. “By expanding our hospital bed capacity—including the temporary facility at the Georgia World Congress Center—we have the ability to treat patients without crisis care in hospital settings. Our proactive actions have reduced stress and strain on area hospitals as well as the communities and families that they serve.”
Kemp also noted Georgia’s plans for expanded testing, including the launch of a telemedicine app, creation of swabs via 3-D printing, and administering 1,500 tests per day in hotspots with the help of the Georgia National Guard.
As of Tuesday morning, more than 760 have died from COVID-19 in the state, the 11th-most in the U.S.
A model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation shows that Georgia hit its peak of daily deaths on April 7, but it also recommends that Georgia not lessen restrictions until after June 15.
Businesses that reopen must comply with social distancing, regular sanitation, and “minimum basic operations.” For example, workers should be screened for fever and illness, wear masks and gloves if appropriate, separate their workspaces by six feet, telework if possible, and work in staggered shifts.
Georgia’s shelter in place order remains in effect through the end of April. Although he is reopening businesses prior to April 30, Kemp asked citizens to limit travel and wear face masks when in public. The governor said the elderly and those with underlying conditions should be prepared to shelter in place until at least May 13.
“We will have tough conversations about the budget, state spending, and our priorities and values as a state,” Kemp said. “Those conversations are underway, and here’s what I know: if we remain united just as we have in this fight against COVID-19, we can overcome the challenges and obstacles ahead. But if we allow politics, partisanship, elections, and egos to divide us during this important inflection point, our entire state will suffer. So, as we begin this process – this measured, deliberate step forward—let’s reaffirm our commitment to each other, to the greater good, and to Georgia’s future.”