Business owners in Georgia, the state that cleared reopening of many of such facilities on Friday, looked at the threat that remains of coronavirus and the steps they needed to unlock their doors and most said “no thanks.”
Even those who opened have doubts if they are doing the right thing.
“I do feel like it’s too soon, but it will probably always feel like it’s too soon because we’re all scared of the virus,” beauty salon owner Jamie McQuaig told The Washington Post Friday. “The ones that are going back to work right now are the ones that have to. They’ve got to feed their children. They’ve got to pay their mortgage.”
But many others say Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp “is nuts” to try and reopen so soon. Even vacillating president Donald Trump says Kemp’s move “is just too soon”
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is telling city residents to ignore Kemp and stay home.
“More than 19,000 Georgians have tested positive for covid-19 and the numbers continue to increase,” Bottoms said in a statement issued by her office. “It is the governor’s prerogative to make this decision for the state, but I will continue to urge Atlanta to stay at home, stay safe and make decisions based on the best interests of their families.”
Carlos l Rio, executive associate dean of the Emory University School of Medicine says Georgia has not reached the needed level of testing to allow reopening.
“I’m certainly not going to go out and get a haircut,” he adds.
More than 22,000 people have tested positive for covid-19 in Georgia, and nearly 900 have died from it. The state has tested less than 1 percent of its residents. Georgia has also not met some of the White House’s benchmarks for reopening a state, including a downward trajectory of confirmed cases over 14 days. It also has a large outbreak of the virus in Dougherty County, where more than 1,400 people have tested positive and 108 have died.
One model anticipates the state won’t reach its peak of positive cases until the end of April.
Kemp’s move is driven in part by a desire to reignite the state’s wheezing economy. In more than a month since the crisis began, more than a fifth of the state’s workforce has filed for unemployment, including 244,000 claims last week.
But epidemiologists say continued restrictions of public gatherings — along with aggressive contact tracing and beefed-up testing — are the best defense against a virus with no vaccine and no cure.
Tennessee starts reopening businesses on Monday, a move also discouraged by medical experts. Same in South Carolina.
The plans are running into opposition from businesses that say the move is too early.
Movie theaters say permission to open is one thing. Actually opening is something else again. With most blockbuster films delayed for opening now until Summer or Fall, there’s nothing to offer anyone to take a chance to sit in a movie theater with others who might be infected.
By and large, the public agrees. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll says most Americans are more worried about lifting restrictions too early than keeping them in place too long.
Polls in Virginia say the same and Gov. Ralph Norhtam is not easing up on his lockdown or stay-at-home orders. Most businesses will remain closed until June.
Extreme right-wing activists toting AR-15s at small rallies that represent a vocal minority aren’t going to reopen government. They can only create useless noise.
“There’s no restaurateur in the country that believes that when the government says ‘Go,’ the restaurants will be packed again,” Alex Smith, president of the Atlas Restaurant Group, told The New York Times in an interview “But if you were losing money before, you really have to ask yourself, are you digging a deeper hole?”.
University of Chicago economist Joseph Vavra says customers, not government, determine when it is a good time for businesses to reopen.
“I don’t think it was really the government shutdown orders that shut down the economy — I think it was the virus that shut down the economy,” Vavra says. “Saying the economy is now opened is just lip service. The economy’s not going to be reopened until people want it to reopen.”