The governors of Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina on Monday afternoon announced new plans to bring their states’ economies closer to full force amid signs the coronavirus outbreak is slowing.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said certain businesses, including gyms and hair salons, can reopen beginning this Friday. Meanwhile, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee confirmed his state’s stay-at-home order, previously extended to April 30, will end that day. And, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said businesses previously deemed nonessential — department stores, flea markets, florists, bookstores and music shops — could reopen their doors.
“These businesses will open according to specific guidance that we will provide in accordance with state and national experts in both medicine and business,” Lee said in a statement. “Social distancing works, and as we open up our economy it will be more important than ever that we keep social distancing as lives and livelihoods depend on it.”
Kemp said Monday that his state would expand COVID-19 testing and that hospitals were in a position to resume elective surgeries after securing necessary protective personal equipment.
“Given the favorable data, enhanced testing, and approval of our healthcare professionals, we will allow gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, barbers, cosmetologists, hair designers, nail care artists, estheticians, their respective schools and massage therapists to reopen their doors this Friday,” Kemp said.
Due to favorable data & more testing, gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, barbers, cosmetologists, hair designers, nail care artists, estheticians, their respective schools & massage therapists can reopen Friday, April 24 with Minimum Basic Operations. #gapol
— Governor Brian P. Kemp (@GovKemp) April 20, 2020
Movie theaters in Georgia will be allowed to reopen and restaurants can resume in-person dining on April 27, Kemp said. Bars, amusement parks and nightclubs will remain closed until further notice, according to the governor.
“By taking this measured action, we will get Georgians back to work safely, without undermining the progress we all have made in this battle against COVID-19,” Kemp said. “Today’s announcement is a small step forward and should be treated as such.”
Monday’s announcements came as states were feeling the pressure to roll back social-distancing measures and reopen an economy decimated by forced business closures and layoffs.
Dozens of protests have sprouted up in front of state capitols and governors’ mansions across the country with participants calling for an end to tough restrictions.
President Trump last week unveiled a plan for reopening the economy in several phases based on the severity of the outbreak in each state or region.
“We can begin the next front in our war, which we are calling ‘Opening Up America Again,'” Trump said during a White House news briefing. “To preserve the health of Americans, we must preserve the health of our economy.”
He held a call with several governors over the weekend to discuss how to successfully reopen states.
In South Carolina, McMaster’s executive order allowed stores to open at 5 p.m. Monday but with requirements to adhere to social distancing guidelines, WYFF-TV reported. Beaches can reopen Tuesday. No decision was made about reopening schools or keeping them closed for the rest of the school year.
I've restored public beach access, allowing locals to use their discretion. I've also allowed some retailers that were previously closed to open, but they must follow strict social distancing measures.
Please stay safe and follow all recommendations from public health experts. https://t.co/pnemrtKI2j
— Gov. Henry McMaster (@henrymcmaster) April 20, 2020
Health officials have warned that allowing businesses to reopen too quickly could result in a spike in COVID-19 cases.