Georgia allowed some businesses to reopen today, but many store and restaurant owners aren't ready to take the risk
- Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp relaxed restrictions on Friday, despite warnings from health experts that the state could see a surge in coronavirus cases if the month-long lockdown was lifted too early.
- Gyms, barbershops, hair and nail salons, spas, and bowling alleys can resume business, but many have chosen not to.
- Movie theaters and restaurants can open to the public starting Monday.
- Throngs of people have converged at anti-lockdown protests in the southern state, which has reported at least 22,147 coronavirus cases and 892 deaths as of Friday.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Jennifer Knox stepped outside Friday morning and was greeted by a beautiful sunny day and no foot traffic.
On Tybee Island, a barrier island off of Savannah, Georgia, that's a rare occurrence."It's just eerie," Knox told Business Insider. "The weather is awesome. This would just normally be a crazy busy weekend."
Georgia has reported at least 22,147 coronavirus cases and 892 deaths as of Friday, based on data from Johns Hopkins University.Despite the threat posed by the illness, which has already infected more than 886,200 people and killed at least 50,360 people around the United States, Gov. Brian Kemp loosened the state's shutdown, beginning with gyms, barbershops, hair and nail salons, spas, and bowling alleys.
On Friday, four mask-clutching customers stood outside David Huynh's nail salon as he opened his doors for the first time in a month, the Associated Press reported."Yes, I am ready to get my nails fixed," Alina Davis said.
Movie theaters and restaurants can reopen from Monday.
As the economy crawls toward a high-stakes reopening, experts have sounded the alarm that Georgia could experience an uptick in COVID-19 cases if restrictions are lifted prematurely and social distancing rules aren't obeyed. The state has been in the news recently as angry protesters took to the streets, demanding freedom from the pandemic's containment measures.President Donald Trump initially supported Kemp's plan to reopen the state but, after consulting with health officials, denounced it a day later, two administration officials told the Associated Press.
—Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 24, 2020
Nobody's received federal relief money
According to the Georgia Department of Labor, 1.1 million people have filed for unemployment since the public health crisis broke out, AP reported.
Knox told Business Insider that she and her employees have been devastated by the losses incurred during the lockdown."Nobody is getting their unemployment. Nobody is getting their stimulus," she said.
"If we didn't get these donations coming in, I don't know what people would have done," she said.Knox also said that 99% of her traffic comes from tourists, so even if businesses on the island are allowed to open, she doubts people will be traveling there to visit them.
Although hoping to do "some sort of soft-opening" in two weeks, Knox said, "The problem is, we're out of so much stuff but I'm not going to order more food. It's like, is it even worth opening?"
'They can't wait to get on social media and blast you'By contrast, Steve K., who declined to give his last name, said he waffled on whether to reopen his business. He's the owner of Sidelines Grille, a family-run restaurant franchise in Georgia.The family decided to open only one of its four locations. Their restaurant in Holly Springs will resume dine-in service on Monday, said Steve.
This particular Sidelines Grille has remained open during the lockdown but only offered to-go and delivery service, with one or two servers working a given shift. Restaurant sales have plummeted 80% during the pandemic.
Steve employs roughly 100 people, and only two are still awaiting their unemployment checks. He is paying those two workers $600 a week, roughly the equivalent of what an unemployment check would give them.During the pandemic, he said, some employees were concerned about getting exposed to the coronavirus, and a few even volunteered to get furloughed. Others, however, couldn't afford to go without the drastically diminished earnings.
"We've been helping them, giving the ones who are single mothers with children – supporting out of our own pocket a lot of the staff that is a little bit more unfortunate," he said.
Steve knows that by reopening he risks provoking community backlash and online vitriol."Everybody thinks that their voice is so important and they can't wait to get on social media and blast you," he said.
Chef Hugh Acheson is the owner of three fine-dining restaurants in Athens and Atlanta, AP reported. He said the state's testing is insufficient so he won't reopen just yet."If I open up fine dining in midtown Atlanta and ... 25 people show up to dinner because I'm brazen enough to do this, that's not enough to make money and stay in business," Acheson said.
- Sanofi, GSK to supply COVAX with 200 mn doses of COVID-19 vaccine (Ld)
- After Bihar, now BJP promises free Corona vaccine in MP
- Sanofi, GSK to support COVAX with 200mn doses of Covid-19 vaccine
- Union Minister Smriti Irani tests positive for COVID-19
- Samsung overtakes Xiaomi to retake the smartphone crown in India