Georgia restaurants allowed to reopen as restrictions loosen

National News

FILE – In this Wednesday, April 8, 2020, file photo, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp walks away after speaking during a news conference at the state Capitol in Atlanta. Kemp attracted widespread attention, criticism and even derision when he announced this week the resumption of elective medical procedures, as well as the reopening of certain close-contact businesses like gyms, barbershops and tattoo parlors. Kemp got no public pushback from Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey, whom he appointed, but was criticized widely by public health experts at Georgia universities. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia’s reopening is set to continue Monday when movie theaters can welcome customers and limited in-restaurant dining may resume in a loosening of coronavirus restrictions.

This comes after other businesses, including barbershops, gyms, tattoo shops and nail salons, were allowed to start seeing customers Friday. While many gratefully opened their doors after a monthlong closure, others didn’t feel ready yet and remained shuttered. 

A similar mixed response is expected for the businesses allowed to reopen Monday.

Gov. Brian Kemp last week announced that he was relaxing restrictions despite health experts’ warnings of a potential surge in infections and disapproval from President Donald Trump.

Kemp released 39 requirements that restaurants must follow if they reopen, including a limit of 10 customers per 500 square feet (about 46 square meters) and all employees wearing face coverings “at all times.” Movie theater ushers were ordered to enforce social distancing.

The shutdown imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus has caused tremendous damage to the economy, and the governor said it was time to start letting people get back to work. The Georgia Department of Labor announced Thursday that 1.1 million workers — about one-fifth of the state’s workforce — filed for unemployment in the five weeks since the crisis started.

But public health experts have said a spike in new cases could follow if reopening happens too quickly; increased testing and diligent tracking of infected people’s contacts are needed to counter that. Georgia has ranked in the bottom 10 of states for testing per capita, but some progress was made on that front last week.

Trump, who has also stressed the need to get the economy chugging again, said last week that Kemp’s plan was too much too fast. The president specifically said spas, beauty salons, tattoo parlors and barber shops shouldn’t reopen immediately.

Kemp and other state leaders, including Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan and House Speaker David Ralston, planned to gather Monday morning with faith leaders from across the state to hold a Day of Prayer service in the rotunda of the state Capitol.

For most people, the coronavirus behind the pandemic causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, it can cause severe illness such as pneumonia, or even death.

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