Coronavirus

Coronavirus Updates: Trump’s Criticism Adds To Tough Choices In Georgia Reopening

A child plays near a sign advising people that the playground is closed and social distancing is requirements in Rutledge, Georgia.
A child plays near a sign advising people that the playground is closed and social distancing is requirements in Rutledge, Georgia.
Credit John Bazemore / Associated Press
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President Donald Trump’s blunt disapproval of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s decision to let certain businesses reopen in limited ways is only complicating the decisions of many owners, workers and customers amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Hair stylist Shannon Stafford said Thursday that she was having second thoughts about reopening her Savannah salon Friday as she weighed the clashing messages from the president and fellow Republican Kemp.

“Do you want us to remain closed? Do you want us to reopen?” Stafford said Thursday. “Everything, just the back and forth, it does have me a little uncertain whether to proceed.”

Stafford said she planned to open her doors to allow her stylists to return to work if they choose. She also planned to keep appointments with three clients who had already booked.

“Whether I decide to move forward with taking some clients, I’m not certain,” she said.

With Georgia’s reported coronavirus cases rising past 21,000 and deaths hitting 881 on Thursday according to the state Department of Public Health, reopening was already mired in unattractive choices. Businesses that have had breaks on rent and loan repayment might find creditors less forgiving if they reopen. Employees would have to report to work or risk losing unemployment benefits. And customers have to decide just how much they want to risk for that haircut or workout.

Kemp is allowing elective medical procedures to resume Friday and the close-contact businesses he had ordered closed may reopen, including barber shops, nail salons, gyms, tattoo parlors, bowling alleys and massage therapists. On Monday, limited in-restaurant dining may resume and movie theaters may reopen. All the businesses are subject to a list of restrictions including separating workers and enhanced sanitation.

Kemp has defended the move as measured, but he’s been widely criticized, with Trump saying Wednesday that he told Kemp by phone that “I totally disagree” with the decision.

New Testing Site Opens At Kennesaw State

Hundreds of people who suspect they may have COVID-19 can now drive up to a new, daily testing site at Kennesaw State University.

University officials say the Georgia National Guard will run the site on the university’s Kennesaw campus in partnership with a medical team from Augusta University.

The site is by-appointment only, open from 8 a.m. to noon, and will be able to test 240 people per day.

Anyone can request a virtual screening for the virus using the Augusta University Health App or by visiting AugustaHealth.org.

This comes as Gov. Brian Kemp promised to ramp-up testing as he announced the state would reopen some non-essential businesses this week.

More Schools Ending Year Early

In the age of online learning, parents have been forced to juggle their own workloads while teaching their kids at home.

Now more school districts across Georgia are cutting off their school year early.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that 17 school districts and state charter schools are officially ending early, including DeKalb in metro Atlanta.

Together, those districts and charters make up 12% of the state’s public school students.

School officials are also raising questions about lunch programs for low-income students, and how many parents are already worried about putting food on the table during the coronavirus pandemic.

Council Members Call For Airport To Close To Those Without tickets Earlier

Some Atlanta City Council members are calling for Hartsfield-Jackson International airport to close to non-ticketed passengers at 6 p.m.

That’s in response to the number of people seeking shelter there overnight.

Antonio Brown is the council member behind the recommendation. He said the airport doesn’t allow people without plane tickets after 11:30 p.m., but that’s often too late to catch MARTA.

“They had no access to public transportation to give them the ability to go somewhere else,” he said.

Atlanta’s mayor recently acknowledged that as many as 300 people were staying at the airport.

This week, the city opened a hotel for people who are homeless and most vulnerable to the coronavirus.

BeltLine To Offer Free, Online Fitness Classes

Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, free fitness classes were bringing people together at various points along Atlanta’s Beltline.

Now the city’s Beltline Partnership says it’s moving the free programs online in the age of social distancing.

The Hashtag Beltline Online move will offer new videos for every fitness level in the coming weeks.

To start getting your blood pumping, find out more at Beltline.org.

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