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Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp defended his decision to begin reopening some businesses in his state despite criticism that it may be too soon amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Republican governor is facing resistance to his efforts from some of his own mayors and business owners in the state after he announced plans on Monday to allow some places such as nail salons, bowling alleys and gyms to open on Friday. During a Fox News interview Tuesday, Kemp defended that decision again in a discussion with Martha MacCallum.
(Source: Fox News)
The Georgia governor emphasized on “The Story” that the state was taking “measured” steps in the reopening of some of the businesses, pushing back at criticism that the move is premature and irresponsible.
“We are taking a measured step,” Kemp told MacCallum, who noted that “it’s been 14 days since the projected peak of daily deaths in Georgia” according to IHME modeling.
“I would urge people to really look at the guidance that we are going to be putting out the rest of the week,” he said, adding that there was time to educate the public and the affected businesses and that “this is just not handing them the keys back to go back to where we were.”
“This is a measured approach with a lot of different requirements and guidance that we are going to be putting out. I’m very confident of that step. It was done in conjunction with public health officials based on the data that we are seeing in the state and the gateways to the phase one part of the president’s plan,” Kemp said.
MacCallum referred to Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, who commented on Kemp’s decision and urged governors to be transparent about the data being used. Kemp explained that he had consulted with public health officials in making his decisions.
“We pored over this data. We’re looking at all kind of different models. I’ve had hospital CEOs that I’ve been in contact with that reached their peak way back on April 6,” he said. “They support a measured opening, which is what we are doing, It’s going to be very limited in scope. Basic operations.”
Kemp pointed to the long-term negative effects of having businesses closed for too long, emphasizing that the economic reboot will not unfold overnight.
“We are talking about a few businesses that I closed down to help flatten the curve, which we have done in our state,” he said, “But for us to continue to ask them to do that while they lose everything, quite honestly, there are a lot of civil repercussions of that, mental health issues. We are seeing more patients in our trauma centers in our state.”
“I understand where folks like the mayor and others may agree or disagree. I’ve got some people that are protesting me because I took this step and I may have others that protest because I didn’t go far enough,” he said, adding that “we took measured steps to get to the shelter in place, now we are taking measured steps to come out of that.”
“This is not a giant leap forward,” Kemp said.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms called Kemp’s decision “perplexing” on Tuesday and said it wasn’t based on “anything logical.” The governor expressed that, despite her “brazen criticism” of his plan, he and the mayor “have a great relationship.”
“She is working very hard, just like all local elected officials are to protect their population. I am doing the same thing,” he said.
“In Atlanta, if someone wants to get their nails done or their hair done on Friday or a tattoo or go to a gym, these are very close contact kinds of businesses that are the first ones on your list. Can you explain why you would start with those kinds of businesses on day one?” an incredulous MacCallum asked.
“Those are the ones that were closed. The other businesses in Georgia are still currently opening under the order that I have now,” Kemp replied, saying they would have to follow “strict social guidelines.”
“You have to give that fitness owner or that owner of the hair salon the ability to be able to be a partner in this fight that we are in,” Kemp said.
“They are going to have to follow the strict guidelines. I would tell you that I would imagine there are people in gyms that will be a lot safer than they would be going to the grocery store or some of the other places of business that are part of the critical infrastructure spend designated by the federal level,” he continued.
“This is going to take some common sense,” the governor added.
MacCallum pressed the lawmaker on how businesses would be screening for illnesses and how that would occur, for example, at gyms.
“Let’s say that the gym decides they’re going to test everybody’s temperature when they walk in. But as we all know, there are asymptomatic people who are contagious to every person that they come in contact with potentially,” she said. “So once you’ve got a fever, it’s already too late. You’ve already been five days of being someone who can spread that disease. So how are you going to screen these people who want to go to these businesses?”
“I have great confidence in them spreading people out when they are doing a workout,” Kemp said of the fitness centers.
“We’ll be putting those guidelines out. Listen, if people don’t want to go, they don’t have to go. If people don’t want to open the gym, they don’t have to. But when you close somebody’s business down and take the livelihood of that individual and those employees and they are literally at the base of losing everything, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt,” he said. “I think they’re going to do the right thing.”
“Everybody in this country is going to be watching your state because you’re one of the most aggressive and the earliest in this process,” MacCallum said. “I hope that you are making the right decision and that it keeps people healthy.”
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