By Revanth Rao
While the state of California remains under shelter-in-place orders due to the coronavirus outbreak, four states are already thinking about reopening. The governors of Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas have all made plans to open some businesses soon.
For states, stay-at-home orders and the closing of non-essential businesses has helped prevent the spread of the coronavirus. However, the loss of business has devastated the economy; the stock market has fallen precipitously, oil prices dipped to negative values, and countless people have been either laid off or furloughed so businesses can make ends meet. Thus, while relaxing stay-at-home orders and opening businesses may be risky from a health perspective, it would certainly benefit states economically.
In Georgia, governor Brian Kemp took action to reopen businesses like gyms, tattoo parlors, and barbershops on Fri., Apr. 24. Additionally, restaurants, theaters, and social clubs reopened the following Monday. However, employees must undergo screening to detect fevers and respiratory symptoms, companies will increase sanitation measures, and the state will still mandate social distancing. To rationalize the decision, Kemp cited the recent increase in testing and approval from health officials. He claimed, “By taking this measured action, we will get Georgians back to work safely without undermining the progress that we have all made in the battle against COVID-19.”
In Tennessee, governor Bill Lee opted against extending the stay-at-home order, which is set to expire on Apr. 30. He will allow certain businesses to open on Mon., Apr. 27, with most businesses following suit on May 1. Lee directly referenced the suffering economy as grounds for reopening, stating “For the good of our state, social distancing must continue, but our economic shutdown cannot.”
In South Carolina, Governor Henry McMaster reopened public beaches, department stores, and flea markets starting Mon., Apr. 27. However, similar to Georgia and Tennessee, the governor emphasized social distancing and said stores may only have five people per 1,000 square feet.
Finally, in Texas, governor Greg Abbott announced a plan to open certain retail businesses on Fri., Apr. 24. However, he mentioned that all schools would remain closed for the remainder of the school year. In a statement to the Texas Tribune, Abbott said, “We have demonstrated that we can corral the coronavirus.”
The decision to reopen states has garnered nationwide criticism. Multiple politicians, including President Trump, and health professionals have pushed back against the governors in charge of these states. Specifically, the leading government official covering the pandemic response, Dr. Anthony Fauci, warned against reopening too early, saying that doing so could seriously backfire.
(Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, NBC News)