Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina move to reopen after coronavirus shutdown
Protesters rally at the Tennessee state capitol Sunday against the coronavirus lockdown.(Mark Humphrey/AP)
With little sign of the coronavirus pandemic slowing down, a few Southern states are ready to open their doors again.
The Republican governors of Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina announced plans Monday to begin reopening non-essential businesses as early as Tuesday.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster issued an executive order Monday, two weeks after he announced a shutdown, allowing retail shops, including those that sell sporting goods, books, music, shoes, jewelry and luggage, to open immediately.
Barbershops, salons and gyms will remain closed and any open stores must follow previous guidelines: either a 20% occupancy or five customers per 1,000 square feet, whichever is lower.
Beaches and waterways will open at noon on Tuesday, although local jurisdictions have final authority on that.
“Our measured, deliberate approach has been the right one we believe,” McMaster said Monday, according to The State. “Our goal was to cause the most damage possible to the virus, while doing the least possible damage ... to our businesses. South Carolina’s business is business.”
At least 4,439 people in South Carolina have tested positive for coronavirus so far. One hundred and twenty-four have died.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced that gyms, bowling alleys, tattoo parlors, barbers, hair and nail salons and massage therapy businesses can open on Friday, while movie theaters and restaurants can return to normal business on Monday.
Kemp cited “favorable data” in his decision, but said employees should still socially distance as much as possible and wear PPE if available.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottoms said on CNN that she had not spoken to Kemp before his announcement and said that the mayor of Augusta, the second largest city in Georgia, was also left in the dark.
“I’m perplexed that we have opened up in this way. And again, I can’t stress enough, I work very well with our governor, and I look forward to having a better understanding of what his reasoning is,” Bottoms said Monday night. “But as I look at the data and as I talk with our public health officials, I don’t see that it’s based on anything that’s logical.”
As of Monday, 19,398 people in Georgia have tested positive for coronavirus. Of those, 774 have died.
In Tennessee, Gov. Bill Lee announced that his stay-at-home order will be allowed to expire on April 30.
“For the good of our state, social distancing must continue, but our economic shutdown cannot,” he said Monday afternoon at a press conference, according to the Tennessean.
Lee said he is working with local government for a plan for reopening.
South Carolina has reported 7,238 coronavirus cases and 152 deaths so far.