Governor reopens businesses, testing expands

  • Gov. Brian Kemp
    Gov. Brian Kemp

As testing expands in the Coastal Health District and statewide, Gov. Brian Kemp issued an executive order Monday that allows gyms, massage therapists, tattoo artists, nail and hair salons and other businesses to reopen Friday.

“By taking this measured action, we will get Georgians back to work safely without undermining the progress that we all have made in this battle against COVID-19,” Kemp said in a streamed press conference Monday. “… I don’t give a damn about politics right now. We’re talking about somebody who has put their whole life into building a business.”

Kemp cited the “favorable data, enhanced testing and approval of our health care professionals” in making the announcement and noted that cases may increase as people begin moving around but Georgia is better prepared now. The state had 20,740 confirmed cases as of noon Wednesday.

The order applies statewide and sets 20 requirements for the reopening businesses that focus on health, sanitization and social distancing. Local orders cannot be more or less restrictive.

“This measure allows them to undertake baseline operations,” Kemp said.

The state will also allow theaters, private social clubs and dine-in restaurants to open Monday, April 27, and churches can hold services if members follow strict social distancing protocols, Kemp said. Bars and nightclubs remain closed.

The governor reiterated that Georgians remain under a shelter-in-place order until 11:59 p.m. April 30 and those at a higher risk should continue to shelter in place until May 13. He did not specify how that order fits with Monday’s order.

“I think our citizens are ready for this,” Kemp said. “… I think this is the right approach at the right time. It’s not just throwing the keys back to these business owners. We’re talking about people that the government shutdown their business unlike many other businesses that have been operating.”

Testing expands    

The Coastal Health District opened a COVID-19 screening hotline late last week and has expanded testing at drive-thru sites.

• Anyone who has symptoms — such as fever, cough and shortness of breath — can be tested.

• People who live or work in high-risk settings — such as health care workers, emergency responders, critical infrastructure workers and those living or working in a group, such as a long-term care facility — can get testing even if they don’t have symptoms. 

All screening must be done by phone and testing is free. A doctor’s referral is no longer needed but you must have a referral from the health department.

The hotline number is (912) 230-9744. The call center is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.