Georgia governor Brian Kemp announced the state’s movie theaters and restaurants can reopen on Monday, April 27th, during a press conference at the State Capitol. Moreover, Kemp said gyms, fitness centers, barber shops, hair salons, and nail salons, would be allowed to open on April 24. He also added that Georgians will be allowed to attend church services, though he advised that church-goers would also have to observe social distancing, and suggested that call-in, and online services “remains a good option.”

“Subject to the specific social distancing and sanitation mandates, theaters, private social clubs and restaurant dine-in services will be allowed to reopen on Monday, April 27,” Kemp said.

Under Kemp’s mandate, businesses must meet 20 distinct guidelines to reopen. They include screening employees for signs of illness, requiring more hand washing and prohibiting gatherings of workers.

Kemp’s strategy puts more pressure on state and local authorities to make sure businesses are complying with his new mandate.

“By taking this measured action, we will get Georgians back to work safely, without undermining the progress we all have made in this battle against COVID-19,” Kemp said. “This measure will apply statewide and will be the operational standard in all jurisdictions. This means local action cannot be taken that is more or less restrictive. Over the next few days, we will continue to closely monitor existing and potential hotspots in our state.”

However, live performance venues, amusement parks, bars, and nightclubs will remain closed.

“The shelter in place order is still active and will expire at 11:59 PM on April 30 for most Georgians,” Kemp said. “We urge everyone to continue to follow CDC and DPH guidance by sheltering in place as often as you can. Limit your travel and limit who goes with you on errands to prevent potential exposure. If possible, wear face masks or cloth coverings when you are in public to slow the spread of coronavirus. For medically fragile and elderly Georgians, make plans to shelter in place at least through May 13 – the date Georgia’s Public Health Emergency expires.”

As of 7:00 P.M., the state has 19,399 confirmed cases. In the past twenty-four hours, 86 individuals have died from COVID-19, raising the total count at 775. The 86 deaths are most casualties the Georgia Department of Health has recorded within a one-day timeframe.

The DPH also announced 452 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, inching the state’s total closer to 20,000 cases. As of Monday evening, the state has had 19,399 confirmed cases of the virus.

The survival rate for individuals infected with COVID-19 is currently 96%.

According to Governor Kemp, the state lab has processed 5,362 tests, and commercial vendors have processed 78,966 tests. The Governor touted a telemedicine app developed by Augusta University that has reduced exposure to the novel coronavirus by all parties while enhancing public health.

“This free app is user-friendly, and through this app, physicians and advanced practice providers from Augusta University Health and the Medical College of Georgia are available to users twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week,” explained Kemp. “If you begin to display symptoms consistent with COVID-19 – day or night – you can log onto AU Health’s telemedicine app or call to get screened by a clinician. If you meet criteria for testing, staff will contact you to schedule a test at one of the state’s designated testing locations near your home. Your healthcare information will be securely transmitted to your designated testing site.”

These measures come from calls and complaints from business leaders and some anxious consumers to reopen the state. The Georgia Budget and Policy Institute (GBPI) says there will be a $4 billion shortfall for the next fifteen months as the economic impact from the coronavirus has been felt throughout the state. GBPI predicted that a sustained unemployment rate of 10% to 20% in Georgia would send state income tax revenues for fiscal 2021, plummeting more than $3 billion below expectations. Currently, 18% of Georgians have filed unemployment claims. The GBPI report recommended some options for raising funds, including increasing the cigarette tax from $0.37 to the national average of $1.81 and changing or eliminating some tax credit programs. For example, the state’s most popular – and costly – tax incentive, the film industry tax credit, could be reduced by utilizing the $2 billion in unused credits an audit turned up in March of last year.

The report highlighted an estimated $9.8 billion in foregone revenue from tax credits in fiscal 2020. One remedy suggested restrictions on transferability and deferred use of tax credits, as well as replacing some low-return tax credit programs in health and education with more direct investment.

The new fiscal year starts on July 1.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks about the COVID-19 virus during a news conference at the Georgia state Capitol on Wednesday, April 8, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks about the COVID-19 virus during a news conference at the Georgia state Capitol on Wednesday, April 8, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
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Itoro Umontuen currently serves as Managing Editor of The Atlanta Voice. Upon his arrival to the historic publication, he served as their Director of Photography. As a mixed-media journalist, Umontuen...

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