Was Governor Really Wrong About Opening Up Georgia in Phases?
No matter what Brian Kemp decides to say or do, he cannot seem to win.
The Republican governor of the state of Georgia — which has become a battleground of viewpoints pertaining to the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic — was vehemently criticized by many people with his controversial decision to begin the “Reviving of a Healthy Georgia” in phases, which started on Friday, April 24, 2020 and will continue tomorrow, Monday, April 27, 2020.
Was Governor Really Wrong About Opening Up Georgia in Phases?
The process of reviving a healthy Georgia started with Phase One…
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.
…and continuing with Phase Two:
Subject to specific social distancing and sanitation mandates, theaters, private social clubs, and restaurant dine-in services will be allowed to reopen on Monday, April 27. We will release more information in the next few days. Bars, nightclubs, operators of amusement park rides, and live performance venues will remain closed.
For weeks now, my team has worked closely with the Trump Administration and our federal counterparts to mitigate the impact of #coronavirus in Georgia. Our decisions and direction are informed by data and public health recommendations. (1/5) #gapol
— Governor Brian P. Kemp (@GovKemp) April 24, 2020
“We are ramping up #COVID19 testing sites across the state”, according to this message which was posted at the official Twitter account of Brian Kemp, which also provided a link to additional information and the list of sites.
— Governor Brian P. Kemp (@GovKemp) April 25, 2020
“As a small business person for over thirty years, I know the impact of this pandemic on hardworking Georgians in every zip code and every community,” Brian Kemp said in this video of the controversial press conference he held with reporters of the media — as well as in the official press release from his office. “With heightened supply and limited demand, crops are rotting and farmers are struggling to keep employees on the payroll. Our small business owners are seeing sales plummet, and the company that they built with blood, sweat, and tears disappear right before them. Contract workers are struggling to put food on the table. Our large businesses, which serve as anchors in many Georgia towns, are scaling back operations, leaving some with reduced hours and others with no job. These are tough moments in our state and nation. I hear the concerns of those I am honored to serve. I see the terrible impact of COVID-19 on public health and the pocketbook.”
The reactions by people were rather vociferous. Many constituents do not support the decision, demanding his resignation — and some of them even going so far as to call him a murderer.
At the time this article was written — approximately 60,000 people have signed this petition to shut Brian Kemp down from re-opening businesses in Georgia, claiming that “We cannot keep putting our economy and personal agendas over human lives. We cannot keep allowing this man to harm people that he clearly doesn’t care about. This kind of negligence has no doubt spread the virus further, and the chances of more people getting sick/dying will most certainly be higher now. Any state that has led by example of this has suffered the consequences and the numbers are there to prove it. Brian Kemp is aware of this yet does not care.”
Furthermore, many health care officials believe that the process of restarting the state of Georgia is beginning too prematurely. Even Donald Trump — who is the current president of the United States — said during one of his daily press briefings pertaining to the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic: “But I wasn’t happy with Brian Kemp. I will tell you that right now.”…
…but although the executive order seems senseless at first glance, there is a lot more to it, as companies within the aforementioned industries cannot just simply reopen. They must first meet some stringent criteria — some of which are only for businesses in certain industries — including but not limited to:
- Ensuring that sales registers and workstations are spaced at least six feet apart
- Limiting the number of patrons inside the premises to either:
- 50 percent of fire capacity occupancy; or
- Eight patrons per 1,000 square feet
- Sanitizing exit and entrance doors at least three times per day
- Install protective screens or other mitigation measures where interactions between workers and patrons are likely
- Schedule specific hours of operation exclusively for patrons who are more vulnerable to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus without allowing other patrons inside the facility or establishment
- Screening patrons at the entrance and not allowing access to those whose temperature is at least 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, are coughing, have shortness of breath, or other respiratory symptoms
Give Business Owners the Benefit of the Doubt
The owner of a small business who truly cares about his or her clientele — who will likely be wary, cautious, and perhaps fearful about the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic — is not simply going to place the Open sign in the door and irresponsibly conduct business as usual. Rather, that business owner will likely exercise safety and care to the fullest extent possible — and even then, worried customers who do not want to contract the 2019 Novel Coronavirus may not automatically flock to that business anyway.
During my recent walks, I have heard from people who are affected by the executive order by the governor of Georgia to reopen the state in stages. They all remain anonymous for their protection.
The owner of a salon — which opened within the past year, is located in a rather spacious stand-alone building, and which reopened on Friday, April 24, 2020 — had every client sit in every other chair for all services. All members of the staff wore masks; and the gloves they wore on their hands were changes between every manicure and pedicure. Equipment and furniture were disinfected between each client. Although the salon is equipped with a large area for snacks, drinks, and coffee, customers are not offered any refreshments until they are leaving the immaculate facility.
“I do not think they should have shut down,” opined one technician in the salon. “I am fine with over-cleaning at the shop even though it is unnecessary because we already have cleanliness standards in place which exceeded what we are now mandated to do.” Although she resented wearing a mask and gloves because every task consumed twice as much time and her glasses fogged intermittently, she did so anyway without question.
One woman — who was older than 65 years of age and was shopping in a supermarket — thought that the entire way that this pandemic was handled was “crazy” and cannot wait for all it to be over; while one of the cashiers said from behind a plexiglass barrier as she was using liquid hand sanitizer that the precautions were all necessary for all of us to be safe.
“The whole thing is insane,” said a doctor of Indian descent who remarked that the few sick patients for whom he had to care as a result of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus “are living among squalor similar to that found in India.” He said that hospitals are not at all busy in Atlanta, as there are very few real cases; and then they have come from people who are in ill health and live in filthy conditions.
“I can’t wait for things to start returning to normal,” said an assistant manager at a fast casual chain restaurant through her mask. “We’re gonna have to limit the number of customers who eat in here — but it’s a step in the right direction.”
A number of the employees of restaurants, supermarkets, and salons have indicated that either they or members of their families had not received unemployment pay as of yet — but because they were no longer allowed to work, “money is crazy tight already.” They also said that they would have done everything possible to ensure that clientele were as safe as possible had the businesses been allowed to remain open.
Some customers and clients agree. “These people would have never survived back in the day,” according to two long-term clients of the salon who were women both older than 60 years of age. “If an old lady isn’t afraid of a cold, why are they? These people just do not want to work — they want someone to pay them to stay home and watch the TV.” Neither woman favors the order to shelter in place — or the shutdown in general — as they are not at all afraid of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.
“If it comes that, I would rather die with pretty toes than sit at home and wait to be allowed to go outside,” one of the two women concluded.
Even during the strictest of lockdowns in a massive effort to control the spread of a virus, some people will still choose to do the wrong thing; but many people — especially owners of small businesses — should have been given the benefit of the doubt and had the freedom to decide what is best for them and their customers, as I believe that they would have done the right thing in the long run…
…especially if doing so was in their best interests.
In fact, many of the aforementioned people indicated that they do not even know anyone who is sick from the 2019 Novel Coronavirus — that includes me, come to think of it — not that that in and of itself is a reason to keep businesses open during a pandemic.
Regardless, time will eventually tell if Brian Kemp implemented the right decisions for the state of Georgia — which is the home of both the world headquarters of Delta Air Lines and the North American operations of InterContinental Hotels Group — in the face of the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic…
…and to paraphrase one of the two women with my own personal thought: “I would rather die while traveling than sit at home and wait to be allowed to go outside.” That is similar in tone to what my great grandfather once said not long before he passed away when he was ordered by a doctor onto a diet low in salt, as he really enjoyed salty foods: “What is the point of living if you cannot enjoy what you eat?”
Georgia may be more of a “state of adventure” than anyone thought during the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic. All photographs ©2009, ©2017 and ©2020 by Brian Cohen.