ATLANTA, Ga. (AP) — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Monday rolled out aggressive plans to reopen the state's economy, saying many businesses shuttered to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus may reopen their doors as early as Friday.
Kemp announced that gyms, hair salons, bowling alleys and tattoo parlors are among businesses that may reopen Friday — as long as owners follow strict social distancing and hygiene requirements. By Monday, movie theaters may resume selling tickets and restaurants limited to takeout orders can go back to limited dine-in service.
"In the same way that we carefully closed businesses and urged operations to end to mitigate the virus’s spread, today we’re announcing plans to incrementally and safely reopen sectors of our economy." Kemp said,
In addition to calls from President Donald Trump, Kemp has heard scattered public calls in Georgia to lift restrictions.
Shane Hazel, a libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate, promoted a small protest Sunday at the Cherokee County courthouse in Canton. In video posted on his Facebook page, Hazel argued that the restrictions were an unconstitutional imposition and that officials had “overstepped.”
“My only care in this world is liberty and rights for every individual out there,” Hazel said.
State Rep. David Clark, a Buford Republican, posted statements online Friday saying it’s “time for Georgia and America to reopen for business.”
“If we continue on the path we are headed down, we will totally destroy not only the U.S. economy, but also the world economy," he said.
Heath officials say Georgia’s death toll from COVID-19 has risen above 700 as new numbers were reported Monday. 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.
Automaker Kia plans to reopen its manufacturing plant in west Georgia next week after a nearly monthlong shutdown that the company attributed to supply chain shortages and concerns of spreading the coronavirus. All 2,800 workers at Kia’s plant in West Point will return to work when production resumes, plant spokesman Rick Douglas said. Douglas did not give a specific reopening date. Georgia's only auto manufacturing plant has been shut down since March 30.
About 40 workers at Kia's Georgia plant Monday began making face shields to help offset a shortage of protective gear for medical workers and first responders. The company said those workers are having their temperatures scanned and are being provided with face masks and gloves. Their work stations are being staggered to enforce social distancing. Douglas said similar safeguards will be used when the rest of Kia’s Georgia employees return to work next week.
Georgia had 1,664 cases of COVID-19 in 230 nursing homes, assisted living centers and other similar facilities as of Friday, according to a list published by the state Department of Community Health. That included 250 resident deaths.
There were also 830 staff members in those facilities who had tested positive.
The PruittHealth Palmyra nursing home in Albany is listed with 106 infections, 16 resident deaths and 45 infected staff members, the worst in all categories.
However, there continued to be disputes about the accuracy of the data. One DeKalb County facility listed as having 10 positive residents and one positive staff member tells residents and family members it has had only one positive resident. The state lists two facilities as having more infected residents than it lists residents overall.
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.