Trump: Kemp Reopening Georgia 'Too Soon'
President Trump said he told Gov. Brian Kemp it was too soon for the state to reopen some businesses later this week that have been closed because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Speaking at a Wednesday evening briefing, the president said he disagreed "strongly," but said it was ultimately up to Kemp.
"I told the governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, that I disagree strongly with his decision to open certain facilities which are in violation of the phase one guidelines for the incredible people of Georgia," he said. "But at the same time, he must do what he thinks is right."
But the public dressing down comes less than 24 hours after the president seemingly endorsed the state's plan. According to CNN, a source familiar with a Tuesday night call between the governor, president and vice president said Trump originally congratulated Kemp for his decision to begin the reopening process.
President Trump: "I told the Governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, that I disagree strongly with his decision to open certain facilities which are in violation of the Phase I guidelines...It's just too soon."
Kemp has been lambasted by Georgia mayors, Democratic politicians and public health officials for his order that will allow barbershops, nail salons, gyms and other shuttered businesses to return to "minimum basic operations" as early as Friday, and allow restaurants to resume in-person dining beginning Monday.
The minimum basic operations include 20 health and safety precautions that are designed to mitigate the threat of COVID-19 while Georgia ramps up testing capacity and contact tracing.
But most business owners aren’t very eager to open back up while COVID-19 cases continue to climb, the state is still ramping up testing and there is no publicly-released data about the virus’ spread by zip code.
Marshall Hughes owns a barber shop in Macon. He failed to get any of the first round of small business funding from the federal government, and also has a daughter who is a nurse on the frontlines of COVID-19 at Navicent Health in Macon. He said he won’t be opening up his shop any time soon.
"I'm not gonna be used as a guinea pig," Hughes said. "We already have to be hands-on with the customers. We're in close proximity with the customers cutting their hair and talking with them. It's just a set up for failure, from my point of view."
Manuel's Tavern in Atlanta is also not rushing to reopen. The iconic restaurant and bar wrote in a Facebook post that they still didn't feel like conditions were safe, although they would make a move in the next few days to begin doing to-go orders.
DATA: Track Coronavirus Across Georgia
"As much as I would like to be open, it's not happening," the post read. "Being closed has not been fun, but it's been the safest, best thing we could do for our staff and our customers."
In Cabbagetown, Little’s Food Store had a more pointed message.
“Y’all can eat in here again when the CDC says it’s ok and I decide it’s ok,” a Facebook post read. “I’m listening to science, not politicians.”
In a telephone town hall Wednesday with Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), Kemp said Georgia tested a record 6,014 people in one day, and defended his decision.
"I know this is a different world, but we've got to continue to live in it for just a few more weeks, and perhaps a few more months to continue to fight this threat," he said. "But also know that there are a lot of people that are hurting really bad right now on the financial end of things."
After the president's remarks, Kemp issued a statement via Twitter.
"Earlier today, I discussed Georgia's plan to reopen shuttered businesses for limited operations with @POTUS. I appreciate his bold leadership and insight during these difficult times and the framework provided by the White House to safely move states forward. Our next measured step is driven by data and guided by state public health officials. We will continue with this approach to protect the lives - and livelihoods - of all Georgians. Just like the thousands of businesses currently operating throughout Georgia, I am confident that business owners who decide to reopen will adhere to Minimum Basic Operations, which prioritize the health and well-being of employees and customers."
As of 7 p.m. Wednesday, Georgia reported more than 21,000 COVID-19 cases and 846 deaths.