Georgia has become one of the first states to ease coronavirus lockdown restrictions, as Governor Brian Kemp cast CDC cautions and even President Trump’s criticism aside today, to allow some non-essential businesses to re-open.
But while anti-lockdown protests have gathered momentum nationwide, the scenes in Georgia today were far from the enthusiastic uptake for which Kemp must have hoped.
Instead many stores remained shuttered and business owners and employees who spoke with DailyMail.com today told of their confusion, conflict and fear that this was a move made too soon.
Georgia has become one of the first states to ease coronavirus lockdown restrictions, as Governor Brian Kemp cast CDC cautions and even President Trump’s criticism aside today, to allow some non-essential businesses to re-open
Some expressed anger at Kemp’s decision and have no intention of reopening. Upscale Barber’s owner Michael Macey, 62, slammed the governor, ‘Especially when you look at how this virus is ravaging our community
Macey said they had been given no testing equipment, no way to check clients’ health as they came in and that it was, ‘irresponsible to open so soon’ (pictured is his Upscale Salon)
Macey admitted that he was ‘barely making it,’ but will not open his doors until the CDC has declared conditions safe. Pictured is his salon
Others were glad to reopen. Hair stylist Deborah Adams in the throes of preparing her salon for clients said, ‘Trust me I am dying to get back to work but I don’t want to die. It’s just not a good idea right now’
Hair stylist Deborah Adams in the throes of preparing her salon for clients said, ‘Trust me I am dying to get back to work but I don’t want to die. It’s just not a good idea right now. There is still a stay in place order, and you have to stay six-feet away from people, yet I am supposed to cut hair and put my hands-on people.’
The Georgia easing is targeted at businesses including fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, hairdressers, nail salons and massage therapists.
Critics have questioned how it is possible for any sort of meaningful coronavirus prevention measures to be instigated at businesses that are, by their nature, up close and personal.
President Trump this week claimed he ‘wasn’t happy with Brian Kemp,’ though Kemp’s own advisors have since stated that both the president and Vice President Mike Pence were privately supportive of the plans to reopen.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms revealed on Monday that she had been blindsided by the Governor’s announcement. She said was ‘perplexed’ and ‘upset’ and stated, ‘There is nothing about this that makes any sense.’
Among businesses that will reopen on Friday are bowling alleys and hair salons. The Midtown Bowl bowling alley is pictured earlier this week
The bowling alley will not be reopening – despite the loosening of rules around non-essential businesses
Massage therapist Erin Hennessy based in Downtown Atlanta said she would not be returning back to work regardless of the pressure she feels to do so
Some, like Elite Edge Gym owner Jason Colleran, 38, decided to do a ‘soft opening’ Friday as they navigate new protocols.
Members of his gym will have to enter through the front door and exit at the back to encourage social distancing. Only six to eight students will be allowed in the facility at a time which will allow around 30 feet between them in this commercial gym.
The state has set out 16 guidelines they recommend gyms follow,
Colleran has posted his checklist at the door explained, ‘We have a checklist for students. They will need to have their temperatures checked and hand sanitized before being allowed to work out.
‘Showers and bathrooms are for one person at a time. Students must keep appropriate distances apart from each other. They must also clean their equipment before and after use.’
He said it was down to gym users’ discretion whether they chose to wear a mask but there will be masks, gloves and hand sanitizer stations around the gym.
Like many having to close his doors has hit Colleran hard and he admitted to feeling ‘great’ to be able to open even partially. As things stand, he faced closing the business permanently in May.
Body Art Studios, Estheticians, Hair Designers, Massage Therapy and Tanning Facilities have a list of 13 state issued guidelines to follow.
Gov Kemp tweeted that he was confident in his reopening plan after speaking with members of the administration
They include no walk-in customers, requiring patrons to sanitize their hands on entering and before any treatment, staggering work schedules so that no more than 50percent of staff are there at one time and requiring employees to wear Personal Protective Equipment ‘as available and appropriate.’
According to Adams a team of cleaners had sanitized and fumigated the Buckhead, Atlanta salon in which she works ahead of Friday’s re-opening.
She said, ‘We are going to be having a lot of people coming in and out of her. They said they are going to stagger hours and have big gaps of time between each client and sanitize everything before and after each client. It’s going to be really difficult.’
Workers had been instructed to remove all magazines and ornaments that people might touch and to set up caution tape inside the salon preventing people from sitting down.
Instead clients will have to wait in their cars and go into the salon one at time. Chairs will be wrapped in plastic.
Those attempting to adhere to the guidelines face a daunting and onerous task. But it is unclear how, or if, they will be enforced and DailyMail.com witnessed several barber shops already functioning with complete disregard to the guidelines.
Clients waited in small stores with no care for social distancing and employees seemed unaware of preventative measures or simply unwilling to take them.
Savannah based tattoo artist Scott Althen, 46, said that safety is a priority for the owners of the parlor in which he works and that they were, ‘coming up with safe operating procedures and a best plan of action.’
He explained, ‘We work in one big room and are plenty of feet apart from each other, but we are in close contact with the person who is getting tattooed. We are going to have to figure out how many people can come in at a time. Likely we will keep it simple and have as few in the shop as possible.’
According to Althen the artists would also do video consultations with potential clients.
Althen voiced the feelings of many when he said, ‘As much as I would like to get back to work, I would like to see all of the safety measures put in place for us before jumping right back in.’
Like many he has been hard hit financially by not being able to work. His shop closed on March 17th and he and his wife have dipped their savings to survive.
He said, ‘If it weren’t for my wife having a full-time job this would be really tough.’ His paperwork for unemployment pay was supposed to go through just two days earlier on 22 April. Now he is uncertain what will happen to any benefits.
Nail salon owner Tracey Phin, 36, said that customers are appointment only and must have masks and gloves on when they come in. When asked how she felt about reopening she said that she was scared but, ‘had bills to pay.’
Massage therapist Erin Hennessy based in Downtown Atlanta said she would not be returning back to work regardless of the pressure she feels to do so.
She said, ‘I will not return back to work until the CDC says that it is okay to come back.’
She said she did not trust the governor’s assurances and believed him to be motivated by a desire to save the state money rather than save the people in it.
She added, ‘I think it is more about unemployment checks than anything else. I think that is his motive.’
Hair stylist Adams agreed. She said that she missed her clients terribly but, ‘I feel they are pushing us and backing us into a corner so that we have to go back to work, and we have to start paying rent and will no longer be able to collect unemployment.’
Althen was also keen to get back to work but cautious that now is too soon. He said he thought that a safe return was possible but would have liked to see them wait even another week.
He said, ‘I guess we are looking for the medical professionals or someone from the CDC to say it’s safe to return back to work. It’s not just our safety it’s everyone else’s as well.’
Some expressed anger at Kemp’s decision and have no intention of reopening. Upscale Barber’s owner Michael Macey, 62, slammed the governor, ‘Especially when you look at how this virus is ravaging our community.’
He said they had been given no testing equipment, no way to check clients’ health as they came in and that it was, ‘irresponsible to open so soon.’
Macey admitted that he was ‘barely making it,’ but will not open his doors until the CDC has declared conditions safe.
Hair Salon owner Erin McAlister who runs Atlanta salon Relish is also waiting for the CDC’s sanction.
She said, ‘I think it’s too dangerous to return to work. I think that the CDC are going to try to control the curve and there will be a peak and then cases will start to decrease and hopefully then they will see that it is safe.’
But Kemp was not entirely without support on Friday. A lone cheerleader could be found at the gates of the governor’s mansion. Amanda Circui, 30, held a sign that said, ‘Give me Liberty or give me death.’
She said she had been going out every day without gloves or masks and was, ‘alive and free.’ Though with that admission she would presumably not be free to go into any of the businesses that have reopened under the ongoing state restrictions.
Kemp’s push to get Georgia back to business continues on Monday when dine-in restaurants and movie theaters will be allowed to reopen under social distancing and sanitation conditions the details of which have yet to be released.
Alaska also began phase one of its reopening, Friday, with Texas, South Carolina and Tennessee all set to push back their coronavirus lockdowns by easing restriction as early as Monday.
GEORGIA BUSINESS OWNER SAYS ‘VAST MAJORITY’ OF RESTAURANTS CAN’T PROFIT UNDER NEW GUIDELINES
One of the entrepreneurs who helped write the new guidelines said most businesses will not be able to profit under them.
The reduced guidelines involve cash payments, frequent hand sanitizing and washing and spacing out tables which will result in reduced capacity.
‘I think the vast majority of restaurants cannot open profitably with these guidelines in place,’ Bo Peaody told Business Insider.
The new guidelines limit restaurants to running at 50 percent capacity. Peabody said they typically have to be 75 percent full to turn a profit.
Staffing will also be a challenge since staff have to stay 6ft apart while working.
However the guidelines are not mandatory, he said.
‘I was surprised that the governor didn’t make some of these things statutory.
‘I think that you’ll see a lot of operators, not necessarily in Atlanta, but outside of Atlanta, are going to open and just go about business as usual.
‘And their view is going to be that people who are comfortable coming will come and people who aren’t won’t. That’s because there’s no liability,’ he said.