US President Donald Trump said Georgia is scaling back its coronavirus lockdown measures too quickly, voicing disapproval for the state’s aggressive timetable for reopening, but Governor Brian Kemp held firm to his plan.
“I told the governor of Georgia that I disagree strongly with his decision to reopen certain facilities… which are in violation of the federal phase one guidelines,” Trump told reporters at a White House briefing on Wednesday, adding that the state should “wait a little longer.”
Although the president took issue with the Republican governor’s decision, which has drawn major backlash from the opposition, he said he would not interfere, leaving the matter at Kemp’s discretion.
I disagree with his decision but he has to do what he thinks is right.
On Monday, Kemp said that some businesses – including gyms, hair salons, bowling alleys and tattoo parlors – would be allowed to reopen this week, after they were shuttered under statewide lockdown measures imposed to stem the spread of the coronavirus earlier in April. The first group of businesses will open their doors as early as Friday, while theaters and dine-in restaurants will get back to work on a limited basis early next week.
While Georgia has reported a falling number of new infections over the last week, federal guidelines recommend that states advance to “phase two” of reopening only after new cases decline for 14 consecutive days. Kemp, however, appears eager to open up the state much sooner than health officials advise.
The governor soon shot back at Trump’s remark in a string of tweets, saying he appreciates the president’s “bold leadership” in a time of crisis, but refused to alter course on lifting Georgia’s lockdown.
“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, adding: “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.”
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. (2/3) #gapol
The decision comes as at least 20 states – accounting for some 40 percent of the US population – devise plans for how and when to lift a patchwork of containment measures, spurred on in part by the severe economic pain the pandemic has inflicted on tens of millions of American workers. A number of southern states have already lined up to be among the first to reopen, but few have moved faster than Georgia.
Asked to weigh in during the same briefing, Dr Anthony Fauci, a top expert on the White House Covid-19 task force, warned that Kemp’s plans to reopen were playing with fire, risking a resurgence of the illness before it’s brought under control in the state.
“I would tell [Kemp] that he should be careful, and I would advise him to not just turn on the switch and go, because there is a danger of a rebound,” Fauci said, adding that he is convinced the virus will return in the fall. “I know there’s a desire to move ahead quickly… but going ahead and leapfrogging into phases where you should not be, I would advise him as a health official and as a physician not to do that.”
Georgia has confirmed over 20,000 cases of the coronavirus and some 848 deaths, among more than 839,000 infections and 46,000 fatalities nationwide. The US remains the world’s top Covid-19 hotspot by far, tallying more cases than several of the next worst-hit countries combined. Though the US saw its second-largest spike in daily cases on Tuesday, health officials say some of the largest epicenters – such as New York City – are beginning to subside, suggesting the country has passed the peak of its epidemic.
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