Reopening of US businesses decision met with dissent from owners


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Gabriel Rivera, Copy Chief

Contrary to the guidelines issued by scientists and public health officials, President Donald Trump released federal guidelines for when to reopen businesses and resume daily life outdoors.

These guidelines consist of a three-phased approach “developed by the top medical experts from across the Government” and “based on verifiable metrics regarding the situation on the ground,” according to a statement from The White House. At the unveiling of the guidelines, the president reassured “We are not opening all at once, but one careful step at a time, and some states, they will be able to open up sooner than others,” according to The Guardian.

The president seems to believe that the state of states, Georgia, will be able to reopen before a majority of others. According to a source familiar with a call made by Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, the two were supportive of Kemp’s decision to reopen businesses. The president has since persistently denied these reports, claiming “he told Kemp he disagreed ‘strongly’ with the decision,” according to CNN.

Kemp has decided to allow certain businesses to begin reopening in an effort to rescue the state’s stagnant economy. The businesses permitted to open in the state on April 24 included bowling alleys, gyms, hair salons and massage and tattoo parlors. Kemp also mandated that movie theatres and restaurants could return to business as usual without any restrictions on April 27.

Most health officials have not been supportive of Kemp’s actions, particularly because the state has not reached its peak in COVID-19 cases. As of April 26, there have been 23,401 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 912 deaths caused by it in the state of Georgia.

Despite many deeming the choice to reopen as premature, the governor defended his controversial decision at a recent news conference. “I think this is the right approach at the right time,” said Kemp. “It’s not just throwing the keys back to these business owners.”

Several other governors across the country have either revealed plans or carried out actions like Kemp’s with the purpose of kickstarting their state’s economy. Governors in Colorado, Ohio and Tennessee have not expressed any intentions to extend statewide stay-at-home orders that are set to soon expire. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster preceded Gov. Kemp’s recent orders, easing restrictions and allowing several businesses to open to customers on April 21. These governors have relieved stay-at-home safety precautions to offer some relief to small business owners suffering from the pandemic. Still as the unemployment rate continues to skyrocket , the people within these states are reluctant to comply.

Since McMaster authorized the reopening of some businesses within South Carolina, there has been little to no commerce in the city’s densely populated capital, Charleston. This attitude was reflected by business owners in Georgia that spoke to CNN about the possibility of reopening their stores in the upcoming days amid the pandemic.

“Whoever opens up in the spa industry is crazy, you are asking for it! And who is going to come back and work? It’s not worth the risk,” Will Ho, owner of Treat your Feet spa in Atlanta, said.

Peiru Kim, owner of several Sugarcoat nail salons in Atlanta, agreed. “The pandemic is killing me and my business, but I’d rather be safe than sorry,” Kim said. .”I understand why Kemp is doing it. He wants the economy to get better. But I don’t want to put my girls in jeopardy.”

Local business owners in Georgia preparing to reopen their stores as per Kemp’s orders share a common concern: the survival of their business.

Nearly all small businesses across the country have suffered substantial decreases in revenue and with stay-at-home orders in many states remaining in place for the foreseeable future, the losses will proliferate. For many small business owners, these profits are essential for paying bills and purchasing food to feed their families.

“It’s been a big hit on our business, our revenue dropped 35% because people were not comfortable coming in March,” Gregory Smith, owner of the gym She’s Fit, said to CNN. If we continue, we would not be able to survive. We need to open to survive.”

Agreeing with business owners hesitant to reopen, scientists and medical experts continue to be adamant about the importance of staying at home to slow the spread of the virus. Dr. Anthony Fauci vocalized his criticism of Kemp’s decision to allow businesses to reopen the day after it was first announced. “It certainly isn’t going to be helpful,” Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said.

Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Center For Disease Control and Prevention, also warned that states should not be inclined to reopen businesses at the first signs of the virus slowing down but rather prepare themselves for a potential second wave that may occur in the winter and correspond with a flu outbreak.

For now, as most states continue to follow stay-at-home orders and non-essential businesses remain closed, the economy shows no immediate signs of recovery, even with the reopening of some in southern states. While protests for the reopening of states are growing, the general consensus among medical experts and business owners in Georgia about Kemp’s decision appears to be a microcosm of the nation’s attitude toward potentially reopening in the upcoming weeks.

Over 80% of voters believed Americans “should continue to social distance for as long as is needed to curb the spread of coronavirus, even if it means continued damage to the economy,” according to a poll conducted by POLITICO/Morning Consult.

Another poll conducted by CBS News saw a similar overwhelming majority of voters claim “the country’s top priority should be to ‘try to slow the spread of coronavirus by keeping people home and social distancing, even if the economy is hurt in the short term,’” according to POLITICO.

It seems the general opinion among business owners across the country remains the same: opening doors to customers is not worth the risk of contracting the deadly coronavirus.