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Several Georgia businesses can reopen Friday after Gov. Brian Kemp decided to loosen coronavirus restrictions — even as the state nears 900 deaths.

While he extended Georgia’s state of emergency until May 13, which enforces "shelter in place" orders, Kemp also allowed for businesses such as bowling alleys, gyms, tattoo parlors, spas, nail salons and movie theaters to start operating.

He announced the plan Monday and signed the executive order Thursday, laying out a series of guidelines for how the state will start to reopen.


The order allows restaurants to reopen April 27, with a restriction on gatherings to 10 people per 500 square feet.

Any business planning to reopen must enforce social distancing protocols and regularly check employees for signs of infection, but Kemp has faced criticism for his decision.


President Trump, who has supported protests against the various state lockdowns, has not been supportive.

“I want him to do what he thinks is right,” Trump said on Wednesday during his daily coronavirus press briefing. “But I disagree with him on what he is doing …I think it’s too soon.”

Trump reiterated his opposition on Thursday, saying, “I want them to open, and I want them to open as soon as possible and I want the state to open, but I was not happy with Brian Kemp. I will tell you that.”

"I (or @VP) never gave Governor Brian Kemp an OK on those few businesses outside of the Guidelines," the President said in a tweet on Friday. "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)!"

Kemp responded to Trump's criticism in tweets, saying, "I appreciate his bold leadership and insight during these difficult times and the framework provided by the White House to safely move states forward. Our next measured step is driven by data and guided by state public health officials. We will continue with this approach to protect the lives - and livelihoods - of all Georgians."

According to models and projections used by the White House from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, Georgia should not consider reopening until mid-June at the earliest. Georgia has the eleventh-most deaths in the country, and many believe that reopening the state now will only see that number climb much higher.


Stacey Abrams, former Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia, called the decision “dangerously incompetent.”

“There’s nothing about this that makes sense,” she said. “The mayors of Atlanta, Albany and Savannah have all questioned the wisdom of doing this. And the fact is the governor didn’t consult with mayors before making this decision.”

In an op-ed published by The Washington Post, Hugh Acheson, a restaurateur who owns three restaurants in Georgia, condemned the governor’s actions and stated he will not open on Monday when the restrictions expire.

“The governor’s decision dismisses science in favor of throwing the economically desperate to the front lines of the fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic,” Acheson writes.


“The hospitality industry was already among the first to succumb to the economic wrath of the pandemic, and I, as a chef and restaurateur, refuse to have the people I employ and work with used as sacrificial lambs for an economic uptick that is far from guaranteed anyway.”