Gov. Brian Kemp has announced plans to allow some businesses to reopen starting this Friday, April 24, to get people back to work even as the coronavirus pandemic continues to claims lives.
Kemp said gyms, fitness centers, body art studios, barber and hair salons, nail shops, bowling alleys and massage therapy businesses can reopen Friday, but it won’t be “business as usual.” Kemp said there will be specific restrictions, including social distancing, screening workers for illness, extra sanitation, wearing gloves and masks, staggered shifts, and teleworking when possible.
Restaurant dining rooms and movie theaters will be allowed to reopen on Monday, April 27, with restriction details to come later this week. Bars, nightclubs and live music/art venues will remain closed for now.
Churches can hold services if they follow social distancing guidelines.
Kemp’s announcement was made as the Georgia Department of Public Health reports 18,947 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 733 related deaths.
Kemp said testing would be “taken to a different level” this week thanks to a partnership with Augusta University and Medical College of Georgia, which has created a free screening app available at AugustaHealth.org. Kemp said those with COVID-19 symptoms and those exposed but asymptomatic are encouraged to to get screened via the app. If the technician believes a person needs testing, then a patient will be referred to a testing site. Results are expected to be available in 72 hours.
Kemp said hospitals would also soon be able to resume elective surgeries, and that the Georgia National Guard would have 10 new “strike teams” heading into COVID-19 hot spots and to senior care facilities to help administer testing.
Kemp’s announcement comes as the White House and President Donald Trump has encouraged states to begin reopening to restart the economy using a phased approach as testing ramps up and cases begin to decline.
“Farmers are struggling, small business are seeing sales plummet, contract workers are struggling to put food on the table, large companies have reduced hours and laid off employees,” Kemp said.
The governor said the shelter-in-place order would remain active until April 30 and encouraged the medically fragile to stay home.