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Kemp to allow bars and nightclubs to reopen in Georgia

May 28, 2020 GMT
Governor Brian Kemp (center) makes a statement and answers questions following a tour of Fieldale Farms while visiting Gainesville, Friday, May 15, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
Governor Brian Kemp (center) makes a statement and answers questions following a tour of Fieldale Farms while visiting Gainesville, Friday, May 15, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Thursday announced plans to allow bars and nightclubs to reopen, overnight summer camps and summer schools to begin and professional and amateur sports to resume operations and practices, all with social distancing and sanitation restrictions in place.

The Republican also extended a public health state of emergency, describing the road ahead as a “slow and careful transition to a new normal.”

The continued easing of restrictions comes as new daily confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Georgia are ticking upward after weeks of decline.

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Dr. Carlos Del Rio, an infectious disease expert at Emory University School of Medicine, said that upward trend probably reflects in part new cases as a result of the state’s push to reopen.

“The data tells me that I should probably continue sheltering in place, so I’m not ready to go to a restaurant yet,” Del Rio said on a call with reporters.

Many people were reluctant to resume normal activities after Georgia reopened businesses, so the impact of the state’s decision on coronavirus cases is not yet clear, said Dr. Colleen Kraft, a colleague of Del Rio’s.

“I think we’ll know a lot more in the next month given the quite busy Memorial Day weekend and sort of the dynamic of travel that I think is starting to occur,” Kraft said.

A new executive order signed by Kemp allows bars and nightclubs to reopen on June 1 with capacity and sanitation restrictions. Bars and nightclubs must meet 39 mandatory measures in order to reopen, he said.

“Just to name a few, those include screening workers for illness, limiting the number of people in the building to 25 people or 35% of total occupancy, requiring the facility to be thoroughly and regularly sanitized, only serving drinks to seated patrons or those in designated areas, limiting party size to six people, and preventing patrons from congregating,” Kemp said.

Professional and amateur - including college - sports can also resume operations and practices on June 1, Kemp said. Overnight summer camps will be allowed to open on May 31, and summer schools will be allowed to begin.

Kemp also reclassified banquet halls and other venues primarily used for weddings as restaurants so that they could begin reopening with restrictions. Kemp said amusement parks can open on June 12, while live performance venues remain shuttered.

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Georgia was one of the first states in the nation to allow businesses including tattoo parlors and bowling alleys to reopen in late April, despite warnings from public health experts that the move was too soon.

A seven-day moving average of confirmed cases provided by the health department shows the number of new daily cases in Georgia declining between April 22 and May 11, then beginning to trend back upward.

Despite that, Kemp said he doesn’t see anything concerning in the data and blamed the upward swing on a large dump of test results by a lab that had been backlogged. “Our numbers continue to look good,” Kemp said.

Georgia has had more than 45,000 confirmed cases of the virus, according to data from the state Department of Public Health. At least 1,962 people in the state have died.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

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Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak