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Businesses, Georgians torn on orders lifting most state COVID restrictions

The new executive order lifting restrictions--issued despite advice to states from the CDC not to lift restrictions, yet-- takes effect April 8.

ATLANTA — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp issued an executive order Wednesday lifting many of the pandemic restrictions on businesses and gatherings that have been in place since March of last year.

The executive order takes effect April 8.

But public health officials are still urging people not to live like the pandemic is over.

There is apprehension, and relief, too, at the legendary Atlanta restaurant, The Colonnade.

“I still feel like they should still keep the same guidelines,” the restaurant manager, Mark Mailloux, said Wednesday evening.

Mailloux is not excited at the thought of the governor lifting restrictions on customer spacing inside.

“I think it’s okay if most people have been vaccinated,” Mailloux said. “But there’s still a lot of people out there that do not want to get vaccinated.”

Mailloux is not bringing back banquets, yet.

But he said he will probably have to increase capacity, and start serving more dinner customers at once, in order to begin restoring revenue lost to the pandemic.

“Possibly putting some of our tables back in the dining room that we moved to practice the safe distancing,” he said.

Kemp - still in quarantine after being exposed to COVID this past Saturday - issued his executive order Wednesday lifting many of the restrictions.

As of April 8:

  • The six-foot distancing rule is gone for restaurants, bars, movie theaters and fitness classes
  • Gatherings of more than 50 people are allowed
  • No more shelter-In-place is required for the elderly and medically fragile
  • And there will be no enforcement of remaining restrictions

As it is, the Georgia State Patrol told 11Alive that in the past year, troopers cited a total of 21 people for violating the state’s pandemic restrictions.

At the Colonnade Restaurant, customers think it’s time to lift the restrictions, even as the director of the CDC in Atlanta and other public health officials are warning states that lifting restrictions could result in another deadly surge of COVID cases.

“I think that since everyone’s getting their vaccine that it’s about time that we get back to the normal—not the new normal, but the normal,” Katissa Bamba said.

“Life has to go on, regardless,” said her husband, Rahim Bamba.

“I think that with people 16 and over now able to get the vaccines, I think it’s a good time,” Alison Mayers said. “I think that people in Georgia are ready to get back to life more normal, and I think it’ll be good for our economy.”

Among the restrictions the governor did not lift include requiring masks for service employees, and strict adherence to disinfecting practices in businesses. And he is still recommending masks for everyone else, and social distancing.

But as of April 8, the state will have the fewest pandemic restrictions in place than it’s had in a year.