Georgia’s governor says he’s still deciding what comes next after the state’s shelter-in-place order expires after Thursday, even as he’s loosened it to allow a number of businesses to reopen.
Gov. Brian Kemp, speaking Monday to reporters, said he hasn’t decided how he’ll replace the order. His public health chief said Georgia had moved forward without meeting all the criteria laid out by President Donald Trump’s administration, although a spokeswoman for the Republican Kemp later said Georgia had met the minimum necessary criteria. Kemp papered over the repeated criticism leveled at him by the president last week, with Kemp saying of Trump, “I appreciate his leadership” and suggesting reporters had overplayed the spat.
Georgia reported more than 24,000 cases of COVID-19 and 994 deaths late Monday.
Kemp last week issued a new executive order instructing people with medical conditions and residents of nursing homes and other care facilities to stay in place through at least May 13. But the governor said he was still examining data and consulting with Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey about what rules should apply to others.
“We’re going to be making some decisions, most likely in the next couple of days of what the next week, two weeks or month looks like, based on on that data,” Kemp said. “I just haven’t made those decisions yet.”
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the highly contagious virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.
Kemp took fierce criticism for moving ahead when many questioned whether Georgia’s data supported the decision or matched up with the guidelines published by the Trump administration, which called for a two-week trend of declining new cases, widespread public testing and the ability to trace the contacts of infected people to break the chain of infection.
Officials have argued that Georgia’s outbreak peaked in mid-April, but that’s not yet clear from the data. The state has in recent days improved testing capacity, but is still scrambling to build a projected 1,000-worker contact tracing effort.
Toomey said Monday that the state didn’t meet “the full gating criteria. We met several of them.” She said Kemp was “looking at many things, not just the data we have, and I respect his right to do that.”
Candice Broce, a spokeswoman Kemp later said Toomey had not spoken clearly, saying Georgia officials believe they met the minimum standards laid out, even if not all of them. In a video released Monday, Toomey said data is “encouraging.”
Trump added his voice to the backlash last week, saying on Thursday “I wasn’t happy with Brian Kemp, I wasn’t at all happy.”
But Kemp, whose political message usually aligns closely with Trump, reassured reporters Monday that there was no rift.
“We’re going to continue to work with him, because the president and I believe in the same exact things,” Kemp said. “We want to keep our citizens safe, and we want to reopen America to entrepreneurship and business. I mean, he knows, like I know, we cannot continue this way economically.”