ATLANTA — Dr. Anthony Fauci and other members of the president's coronavirus task force reportedly asked Dr. Deborah Birx to convince President Trump to publicly reject Gov. Brian Kemp's plan to reopen Georgia.
In a report published Thursday, CNN White House reporters say a source told them Dr. Fauci said, "I cannot defend this publicly," of Kemp's policy.
The report says the task force asked Dr. Birx, the coronavirus response coordinator for the task force, to convince the president to reject the Georgia plan.
Kemp's plan calls for the gradual reopening of some businesses starting on Friday.
It has been met with sharp scrutiny - Kemp's order effectively makes Georgia the first state in the nation to take concrete steps to reactivating its economy.
In Wednesday's task force briefing, Trump said he told Kemp that he "disagreed strongly" with the decision to begin reopening the state's economy.
In the previous day's briefing, the president called Kemp a "very capable man" who "knows what he's doing." He did not indicate direct disagreement with the governor, but indicated he would raise the question of whether the state's testing was sufficient enough to justify reopening.
According to CNN, before the next briefing Birx "had a private meeting" with Trump and "successfully convinced him to denounce Kemp's decision."
"They've been strong, resolute, but, at the same time, he must do what he thinks is right. I want him to do what he thinks is right. But I disagree with him on what he's doing," the president said at the Wednesday briefing.
He said he felt it was "too soon" for some of the businesses slated to begin reopening under the Georgia plan, such as beauty salons, barber shops and tattoo parlors.
"And I love the people, I love those people that use all of those things, the spas and the beauty parlors and barbershops and tattoo parlors, I love them. But they can wait a little bit longer, just a little bit, not much," Trump said.
CNN reported that, on Tuesday, the president and Vice President Mike Pence called Kemp and indicated their support for his decision.
After Wednesday's briefing, Kemp responded to the remarks with a series of tweets.
"Earlier today, I discussed Georgia's plan to reopen shuttered businesses for limited operations with @POTUS. I appreciate his bold leadership and insight during these difficult times and the framework provided by the White House to safely move states forward," he said.
He went on to say that they will continue to review the data.
"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," he said. "Just like the thousands of businesses currently operating throughout Georgia, I am confident that business owners who decide to reopen will adhere to Minimum Basic Operations, which prioritize the health and well-being of employees and customers."
Less than an hour before Trump's comments, Kemp told 11Alive he spoke to the president. However, he didn't mention the disagreement.
"We’ve had conversations with the White House about our data, what we’re doing, they’re doing the same with a lot of governors around the country," the governor said.
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