ATLANTA — With his decision to put the state on a course toward slowly reopening as soon as Friday, Gov. Brian Kemp has drawn national attention on Georgia.
Broadly, his announcement that the Peach State would effectively be the first in the nation to bless the reopening of businesses such as hair and nail salons, barber shops, body art studios and bowling alleys was met by much of the national media with disbelief.
More local figures such as Bernice A. King and Stacey Abrams expressed their disapproval. King, the daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said said her heart was "extremely heavy" and that she was "extremely concerned" for the "safety, health and lives of Georgia residents" in a video statement online.
Abrams said "there's nothing about this that makes sense" in an interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
Even some Republicans, such as South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, said it was possibly "going too fast too soon."
A Lawrenceville physician, Dr. Karla Lorraine, went viral for her response in which she said, "I'm so upset that I'm not going to take my mask off. I don't even want you to see the cuss words that could be coming out of my mouth."
Others stressed the difficult position the decision could put not just on healthcare workers, but the owners and employees at businesses allowed to reopen, who could face pressure to do so and may now struggle to get loans and benefits that are usually conditioned on there being a shutdown.
The governor did have defenders. The conservative commentator Erick Erickson, a Georgia resident, argued - as Kemp himself did - that the data was on the governor's side.
"There is still a backlog of tests from early April coming through. They didn’t send those tests to other facilities lest they get damaged or lost. As a result, much of the daily increase is happening because of those old tests," he wrote. "The bottom line is that the R0 number is the reproduction number for the virus and you want it below one in order to reopen a state. Georgia is there. That means it can manage reopening in a gradual, orderly process."
Some conservatives also compared the reaction Georgia has seen to Colorado's, where that state's Democratic Gov. Jared Polis announced he would allow some retail business activity beginning next Monday. Large workplaces, something not addressed by Kemp, will be open in Colorado at half capacity as soon as May 4, according to Colorado Public Radio's reporting.
"Some governors have announced plans to bring their states' economies closer to full force amid signs the coronavirus outbreak is slowing — but they’re not all being treated the same by mainstream media, according to one prominent watchdog," a Fox News article said.
Colorado does not appear to be easing restrictions on the kinds of small business activity that necessarily require close contact - such as beauty salons and barber shops - as Georgia will.
It remains to be seen how other states will follow suit, or how Kemp's steps to reactivate economic life go, but it's certain much of the country will be watching what, as a CNN article put it, is "the most aggressive leap by a US political leader to the reopening side of the conundrum that balances vicious job losses against shutdowns meant to suppress the virus as quickly as possible."
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