Prioritize saving lives not businesses

By Lauren Gassel | Contributor

On April 20, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp held a press conference announcing his plans to open certain businesses starting Friday. Living in Atlanta myself, I honestly find this shocking and irresponsible.

The statewide shelter in place started April 3 and was scheduled to end on April 30. However, Kemp has other plans, and allowed nail salons, hair salons, massage therapy, bowling alleys and gyms to open Friday. In-person church services are allowed to resume as well. On Monday, movie theaters and restaurants had the option to reopen. I’m sorry, but how important is a massage over decreasing a national pandemic?

“For weeks now, our state has taken targeted action to prevent, detect, and address the spread of coronavirus by leveraging data and advice from health officials in the public and private sectors,” Kemp said last week. “Thanks to this methodical approach and the millions of Georgians who have worked diligently to slow the spread of coronavirus, we are on track to meet the gating criteria for Phase One.”

For employees of these businesses, there will be stricter health and safety protocols. Some include screening employees for fevers, requiring gloves and masks, and keeping the safe six feet apart.

Kay Kendrick, chair of the Georgia State Board of Cosmetology and Barbers stated, “I am very happy that Governor Kemp decided that we can reopen our salons and spas. We have 95,000 licensees under our board, most of whom are independent contractors that have no other source of income.”

President Trump recently released his plans for the three phases for opening up the economy, with May 1 being the starting date. So why can’t Georgia just wait another week? It would understand if Georgia’s cases have dramatically decreased, but they haven’t.

As of Tuesday, Georgia has 19,884 reported cases and 802 deaths. Kemp has honestly acted reckless in his decisions with the Coronavirus. On April 1, he admitted that he had just learned that the disease could be spread through asymptomatic people – something that had been known for months.

I understand the need for keeping the economy going, especially for small businesses, restaurants, etc, but protecting peoples’ lives is the most important thing. It’s a hard situation to be in, because people can either return to work and increase their risk of disease or remain home and increase their debt.

Restaurant owners Jen and Emily Chan, of JenChan’s Restaurant and Supper Club, are one of the restaurants that won’t be opening on Monday.

“We will not put our staff or the rest of our community at risk by reopening to the public Monday,” Emily Chan said. “I hope our entire restaurant community can unite against this …. We cannot risk a second wave when the first wave is still happening.”

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has asked Atlanta residents to stay home despite Kemp’s plan.

“I have searched my head and my heart on this and I am at a loss as to what the governor is basing this decision on,” Bottoms said.

In 2018, Kemp beat his Democratic opponent Stacey Abrams in a highly controversial, contested very publicized race. She said last week, “The worry is that while trying to push a false opening of the economy, we risk putting more lives in danger, and there’s nothing about this that makes sense.”

Albany has been the hotspot for Georgia’s Corona cases. Albany mayor, Bo Dorough, cannot set stricter guidelines for his city due to the fact that Kemp has blocked mayors from doing so. This is honestly very alarming, because of the fact that some cities are still reaching their peak. For example, my mom’s boss recently had two friends die that lived in Albany. They were both 34 with no preexisting conditions. That doesn’t sound like a city that needs people going back to eating in restaurants and seeing movies.

There is simply not enough testing and not enough resources for the state to be opening so soon. It would be unfair to the healthcare workers who are on the frontlines fighting to flatten the curve. Opening these businesses could cause a second spike in cases, which could lead to hospitals running out of beds and a massive increase in deaths. The smart choice is to stay home and stay safe.

Lauren Gassel
Journalism major