Georgia State Line
Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

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.

“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.

“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

Restaurant closed
Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

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.

empty shelves
Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

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.

Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

“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.


A shopping mall remains closed amidst the 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic. Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

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.

The main campus of the world headquarters of Delta Air Lines in Atlanta.
The main campus of the world headquarters of Delta Air Lines in Atlanta. Photograph ©2009 by Brian Cohen.

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.

  1. “He said that hospitals are not at all busy in Atlanta, as there are very few real cases.”

    I guess over 23,000 cases and 900 deaths in Georgia are “very few.”

    1. You know ~160,000 people die in the world every DAY, right?
      Just, normal death.

      900 deaths in one state… over 6 months…IS tiny.
      Your brain and the oversized perception of risk that you are wrongly assigning because you don’t understand statistics, math, or logic, show an ignorance shared by most public officials.

      If you ran for public office, you’d fit right in.
      Why use data when you can just tell people how you feel!

      “Guys – it’s DANGEROUS out there!
      Ban cars, ban the flu, ban airplanes! Let’s all sit at home and talk about how noble we are!! Even if we ruin hundreds of millions of lives and cause misery around the world!! Because, we operate on fear and emotions rather than any form of logic, reasoning or critical thinking!”

      Congrats man.
      ‘Dumb’ won this round in society, clearly – let’s just hope it won’t win the war…

      1. Sorry, but your logic is idiotic. A car crash, as soon as it is over, is a done deal. That car crash is not going to kill more people after it happened. A Covid-19 case, means, on average, you infect 2.6 people. Those 2.6 people infect another 2.6 people each and so on. Yes, those 900 people is a small number, but would you prefer, that without mitigation, that it climbs to millions?

        1. I’ll try to state a better case for loosening lockdowns.
          – You are correct that if the average person infects 2.6 people the virus will spread exponentially, potentially killing hundreds of thousands even if the fatality rate is low. I agree this is unacceptable.
          – One alternative is to maintain a lockdown so that the infection rate is close to zero. Very few will die but we will all lose a year or so of our lives stuck inside, and millions will become unemployed. Cancer patients are forced to delay treatment. Many will commit suicide, and millions of impoverished people in the developing world will starve.
          – My preferred approach is loosening restrictions slightly, so that everyone must wear a mask, people must stay six feet apart, but allowing business to reopen at reduced capacity. This will save millions of jobs and allow us to enjoy one of the few summers of our short lives. The infection rate will be well below one since the vast majority of close interactions, especially sneezes without a mask, will be eliminated. Some people will be infected, but the curve will be flattened and hospitals won’t be at capacity. Unfortunately, some infected people will die. But if we can keep the death toll similar to that from cars, thirty to forty thousand a year, most would consider that an acceptable price to pay.

      2. Wow. You’ve certainly read A LOT into a rather brief comment. For the record, I’m quite familiar with statistics and critical thinking, but I did rather enjoy your little tirade.

  2. Wow. Yes, let’s believe a Trump stooge politician over the public health experts who believe (and eventually convinced even Trump) that Georgia opening non-essential businesses was a big mistake and very dangerous. If anyone believes the Trump stooge governor that Georgia has tested sufficiently to actually know its real infection case count, or can test sufficiently to stem additional cases, then I’ve got a bridge in Alaska I’d like to sell you. This is all about political expediency rather than good public health policy.

  3. A surprising perspective from someone who’s so vehemently anti-smoking. Your views seem contradictory, perhaps even hypocritical, given that smoking primarily hurts the individual while this virus easily passes on to others.

    1. You are comparing *asking* an individual to stop sucking on an implement (be it a cigarette, cigar, or vape pen) that serves no purpose except to provide a slight high to the user while positively surrounding the user and everyone in the surrounding area with toxic, cancer-causing chemicals to the government *requiring* that otherwise healthy individuals lock themselves away for months in end to potentially curb infection from a virus that might have a minuscule mortality rate?

      1. So using your logic, personal choice is fine if it can kill other people but if it is unlikely to cause harm to other people it’s not okay. Interesting. As to your *asking* premise, I don’t smoke but I don’t recall my friends that do being *asked* not to smoke although I’ve personally observed them being shamed, hated on, screamed at, and generally vilified for smoking. Can a smoker light up in a pretty much empty theater or hotel lobby without abuse or will they be TOLD not to smoke? We both know the answer. Nice try, though.

  4. I do not agree with staying inside. When does it all end? When can we live a normal life ? If your answer is when the get a vaccine or treatment, by then the damage to our economy will be disastrous and possible not recoverable.

    Look at Hokkaido.. they had the all clear. No more new cases so they lived on and had an outbreak. This virus is here. Go face the music because hiding inside your house will not get rid of it. It will be there waiting and I’m not giving up the freedom and American that so many million (Young soldiers ) fought and died for.

    I am anti-Trump, can’t stand that piece of garbage. This isn’t political. Use moderation , cover up , social distance when you can but live your life. Any day can be your last no matter what you do. Don’t let it be while hiding in fear.

  5. Anyone look at Sweden they didnt shut down ar all and now they are already at herd immunity. Sorry life has risks, one of those risks is death. Also, the same snowflakes who are cheering the complete destruction of the economy will be the first ones to complain when massive tax increases come. Do you think trillions and trillions of stimulus is free? What about when your state and city has to drastically raise taxes to pay their cops and firefighters?

    Awesome thing those first responders are getting action of overtime, making a killing, and spiking those pensions. They will thank all of you for the increased taxes to pay for it all.

    1. I’m embarrassed to admit I agree with much of your logic.

      Why embarrassed? Because your lack of writing skill (or, OK, empathy) didn’t flag to you the irony of saying “making a killing” in a situation where there has been so much loss of life to the virus in the first responder force. Yeah, really “making a killing”.

      You stepped on your own message.

      1. Yes probably could of used a different choice of words but the point remains the same that it will cost a crap ton later on.

    2. I’m Swedish and currently living in Texas. What’s rarely being mentioned in the discussion of the ”best” approach, both from Americans and Swedes claiming the swedish open approach as the ”better” one, is the HUGE difference in social security and culture.

      Swedes stay home from work when they are feeling sick – it’s frowned upon to go to work when you are sick and risk others health – with 80% of their salary for 1 yr after which its 75% (a doctor’s note is needed after 7 days).

      Swedes traditionally have a very high trust in their government (they voted for it) which means they adhere to RECOMMENDATIONS. They also have a solid cultural attitude in regards for ”the collective good” versus ”my individual freedom”, especially when it comes to public health – we all pay for the health care.

      In other words Swedes are voluntarily in a fantastic way, adjusting to the same changes in lifestyle as Americans have been instructed to do. Around Sweden people are staying home voluntarily – without protesting for their ”individual freedom” – the stores and restaurants are empty and hardly anyone travels. The news you see about people ”living life as usual” are from the capital, also the hardest hit.

      There’s truly no comparison between the two.

  6. If people want to be 100% sure it’s safe to reopen then they should be prepared to be locked down until if and when there is a cure and/or vaccine, since herd immunity is unlikely with our current strategy. At some stage we’re going to have to trust that G-d wants us to come back out again (and I don’t know why He did this). I’m glad I’m not the one making the decisions as to when to reopen.

  7. Governor Kemp is absoluteall right to allow some businesses to reopen with proper procedures to minimize the risk of spreading the virus. Georgia is not New York which has 10 times the deaths as Florida despite being of equal population and actually Florida having an older population. NYC is a disaster with subways still open which boggles my mind. Georgia on the contrary has maintained a much lower infection and death rate and people who want to make the decision for themselves about going to a store or business should be allowed to. As long as vulnerable populations remain home, younger people who don’t live with vulnerable populations should be free to live their lives as they see fit. Let people decide for themselves what risks they want to take. Not only is testing widely expanded but every day that goes by means more PPE that the public can use to keep safe while outside the home. Georgia is not New York and thank goodness for that. That’s the problem with having 50 states 2680 miles coast to coast under one federal government. People in Georgia, Florida, Iowa or North Dakota shouldn’t be held back because of New York City. The rest of Michigan should not be held back by Detroit

  8. I guess we just throw science out the window and ignore the advice of experts. There is a science to this.

    We all have bills to pay and I think GA as well as other states could slowly reopen, but tattoo parlors, massages, bowling, Salons? How do you socially distance with those? Reinfection in GA will scale pretty quickly when people are not socially distancing. Oh wait, just inject yourself with disinfectant or use a UV light. Problem solved. Until there is an effective vaccine, there is no reason to go back to the way things were.

    You can restart a business, but you can’t restart a life. Maybe Darwin was right.

    1. You do realize that most businesses never did close in Georgia? Our shelter-in-place was never as intense as those in other areas. We have maintained incredibly low infection and death rates while keeping grocery stores, big box retailers, coffee shops, gas stations, attorneys, real estate offices, tradesmen, and takeout restaurants open. And the disease has *not* blown up here.

      In fact OUR public health department shows our peak was week ago. Science and statistics and fact ARE leading these decisions. Unemployment, loss of income, loss of businesses that families spent decades building are, however, being experienced here. The businesses opening now are our reasonable next step.

      Masks, gloves, partitions, extra spacing, extensive cleaning… all of these are in place. I was more distanced and ‘safe’ at a salon on Friday than I was at the grocery store for the last 6 weeks.

      1. Seriously, back up you claim with real data. An“incredibly low infection rate”. What is your data source that supports that statement? According to John Hopkins, GA has the 12th highest infection rate in the US at 19.06% of those actually being tested. GA has 11th highest mortality in the US at almost 4% of those tested. Find me one Public Health official who think GA is ready? With a population of 10M and no know treatment or vaccine, if only 25% of the population becomes infected that would result in 10K deaths in 2020. But I guess they don’t matter.

        You can do whatever you want. You willing to sign a Living Will that states you failure to socially distance yourself means you are giving up priority Hospital treatment if you become ill and need it?

        1. Kathleen E. Toomey, M.D., M.P.H. Commissioner of Georgia Department of Public Health has overseen the entire soft reopen and its guidelines.

          R(t) (real-time R0) went below 1 on April 17 (currently at .95)

          (GA was at 1.1 or below since Mar 31 & hovering right at 1.0 since Apr 5.)
          *Clear interactive graphic on this site but I cannot get a photo to load here in the comments.

          Cases hit peak no later than April 10 with our re-open starting two weeks later.

          As the national coronavirus task force guidelines state, “Downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests for 14 days.”

          Deaths peaked on April 7 and hospital resource usage peaked April 15.…/may-have-alre…/NX9bJHiAihAajPduLRXQcP/

          As of April 22nd, daily cases were decreasing.

          Furthermore, the goal of our shelter-in-place was *never* to wait out a vaccine or cure or the exhaustion of the virus… it was to “flatten the curve”… to allow the hospitals time to get ready for a potential crush. They are ready. They are waiting. They finally get to go back to also performing allegedly non-essential procedures so they will not go bankrupt waiting on the flood of coronavirus patients.

          Georgia Covid-19 deaths (April 24, 2020): 916
          Georgia population (July 2019): 10,617,423
          Actual Mortality Rate: 0.008627%

          By comparison, 1504 people died in automobile accidents in Georgia in 2018. Over 300 people had already died on the roads in the first three months of 2020 when our highway signs switched from reporting road fatalities to reminding us to wash our hands and social distance. Yet, no one has asked the governor to lock down our highways and remove the right to drive from our citizens even though it is clearly deadly and clearly affects those around us.

          While I have no expectation of entering hospital care for Coronavirus, I would indeed expect the same level of care as anyone – even those who seek medical care as a direct result of their decision to smoke, drink, eat poorly, be obese, drive dangerously, participate in sports, or any other potentially self-inflicted ailment. Unless you are now suggesting that absolutely no one be allowed to seek medical treatment for any ailment or injury that they could have possibly avoided?

    2. Science also says that we have an immune system that fights disease. Nobody really knows whether the doomsday scenarios about hospital overcrowding are accurate because we don’t know how many people are infected or have recovered without symptoms. Your comment about disinfectant shows that your opinion is based on the political leanings of the Governor.

  9. This issue has become politicized and like any political issue in our society today it has become polarized. On one hand we have those who think along the lines of “if even one life is saved it’s worth it”. This group is more urban, liberal and probably not direly affected economically because they are still getting a paycheck or benefits that equal or exceed their paycheck. Otoh we have the group that wants to convince everyone that this is no worse than the flu. This group is pretty much the opposite. Rural or suburban, conservative and feeling more acutely the economic pain of the lockdown.

    Sadly rational discourse and compromise is hard to come by. People need to accept the lethality of the virus especially in regard to the elderly but people also need to acknowledge the economic, physical and psychological costs of a lockdown. A vaccine may never come. The common cold, SARS and MERS are all coronaviruses and we have never found a vaccine. This virus is bad but nowhere near black death or smallpox bad. Life must continue but that doesnt mean reasonable precautions can’t be taken. I’m perturbed by the sometimes arbitrary orders of government officials and lack of transparency and changing objectives in justifying those orders. We will probably end up like 9/11 in that we will trade freedoms for a false sense of security. It’s been a long time since we have had a pandemic and society has shown itself ill equipped to deal with it.

  10. The U.S. by state has been an ad hoc approach. Different rules everywhere. But one of the key tests has been grocery stores. People have continued to use these and there are no reports that grocery stores have been vectors for transmittal. So an incremental opening approach is indeed logical.

    Austria has started this and the Chancellor there, Sebastian Kurz, made it clear that they would put on the emergency break if they see outbreaks. Austria started their openings with small shops, cafes, hair salons. I think using this approach will aid them to quickly identify any outbreaks of infection.

    We all need to someday get back to it. And green shoots are appearing as the worst globally seems to be winding down. Air travel might be prolonged depending on each country’s rules on quarantining of incoming passengers. They might not require it of their own citizens, maybe so, but if tourists/visitors will face two weeks of self-isolation upon arrival then you can forget about green shoots for the air carriers. Most working folks in the U.S. have a max two weeks to use when they travel to Europe or Asia.

    Greece, Croatia are opening up rapidly in order to attract millions of northern European sun-seeking and water seeking vacationers. Already, hotel reservations for July to August are fast filling up at resorts and hotels. The Scandinavian, German, Polish, Baltic nations, Russians, Swiss, Netherlands, UK, Ireland populations will be hitting the road in the tens of millions this summer to make up for lost time and fun.

    Italy just today announced their incremental opening through May. It appears that Italy will be fully open by June 1. A few nations, like Germany, have banned large gatherings of 5,000 or more into October 2020. Again, we will see a hotch potch of rules by country. Spain, the second most visited country in the world after France, should be welcoming millions of summer tourists again by June.

    Intra-Europe the pent up demand for travel is there and by July the planes will be full along with trains as holiday makers flush with saved up cash take to the beaches, mountains and cities in search of adventure. I think in the U.S. you’ll see more domestic holidays.

    Airlines have the planes and with government loans and grants in the tens of billions doled out, the means to get back into the skies again. I believe that global airlines, those that do survive, will be flying full timetables pre-COVID by November 2020. Business will come back, perhaps bigger than it was before the pandemic. It happened that way after the 2008 world financial crisis.

    Book now so you don’t miss out. The air tickets, hotels going forward are now cheap, but that won’t last long.

  11. The world has too many people. We should just let the virus run through the society and kill the weak ones. Our society will grow, stronger, younger, more beautiful.

    The ones that the virus kills are probably sinners who have offended god and will go up hell when they die. This virus is the best way to find out who had been a good christian. Spreadt it in all the churches and let the sinners perish.

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