Georgian Governor Brian Kemp announced on Monday that he would allow nonessential businesses like nail salons, gyms, restaurants, and bowling alleys to open on Friday. Georgia will now be the first state to lift its stay-at-home orders amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Georgia currently has nearly 19,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 733 people have died from the disease in the state. Georgia is number 11 out of the 50 states for infections, as local channel WSB TV reported. The state saw its first cases in early March.
Despite these figures, and despite the United States lacking the number of tests experts say it needs in order to be able to lift social isolation restrictions, Kemp announced that he was letting the stay-at-home order expire in the state on April 30. Those who are in a higher risk category, such as those who are immunocompromised and the elderly, will be required to continue sheltering in place until May 13.
Effective immediately, elective surgeries can begin taking place. On Friday, hair salons, barbershops, nail salons, gyms, bowling alleys, and all other similar businesses can reopen. Restaurants and theaters can reopen as well, though they will need to exercise social distancing precautions. Places of worship, too, can reopen, but they will also need to adhere to strict social distancing guidelines.
Businesses will also be required to screen employees for fever, and people will be required to wear masks and gloves. Businesses should stagger shifts and encourage remote working when possible.
The reason for the shift is that Kemp says the state is starting to see the curve level off and fewer people are being hospitalized.
In areas where the virus still appears to be active, the governor announced that he would send out strike teams to offer assistance.
To help with testing, the state government is partnering with the state university to ramp up the process, and Georgia is releasing an app to screen individuals who believe they may have the disease.
“Testing defines the battlefield and informs our long-term strategy,” Kemp said.
Kemp said that he believes the state needs to work together rather than leaving the decision up to the individual cities, which is what took place early on during the pandemic, according to 11 Alive.
“The hodgepodge approach that we had with the locals doing that early on, I think, were good for a few days,” he said. “But then some went too far or some didn’t go far enough, I think as we come out of this, we have got, really, to for the most part do this statewide.”