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Georgia governor stands by decision to ease restrictions despite split from Trump

Georgia, Oklahoma to begin reopening Friday
Georgia, Oklahoma to begin reopening Friday 04:05

Washington — Georgia Governor Brian Kemp is standing by his decision to begin allowing some businesses in the state that were closed due to the coronavirus pandemic to reopen as soon as Friday after President Trump said he disagrees with the move.

Kemp, a Republican, said in a series of tweets Wednesday he discussed his state's plan to ease restrictions on business operations with Mr. Trump and believes business owners who decide to open their doors will adhere to state guidelines designed to protect employees and customers.

"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," Kemp posted on Twitter.

The governor praised Mr. Trump for his "bold leadership and insight during these difficult times."

Earlier this week, Kemp issued new guidance to give shuttered businesses the option of reopening. On Friday, Georgia will allow gyms, bowling alleys, tattoo parlors, barbers, hair and nail salons and massage therapists to begin operating again if they fulfill health and safety requirements. On Monday, the state will allow theaters and restaurant dine-in services to reopen if they follow social distancing and sanitation guidelines.

Kemp is also allowing elective medical procedures to resume.

Georgia is the first state to begin lifting restrictions on businesses, though governors of Tennessee and South Carolina also announced this week they will permit some businesses to reopen. The move comes after the White House issued new guidelines for governors as they look to revive their economies. Still, leaders of several states have extended stay at-home-orders into May as the death toll from the coronavirus in the U.S. approaches 50,000.

Mr. Trump said Wednesday he told Kemp he disagrees with his decision to reopen certain businesses and said the state has not fulfilled the criteria outlined by his administration to proceed to a phased opening. 

"I want him to do what he thinks is right, but I disagree with him on what he's doing," the president told reporters. "But I think spas and beauty salons and tattoo parlors and barbershops in phase one — we're going to have phase two very soon — is just too soon. I think it's too soon."

Mr. Trump said he believes those businesses "can wait a little bit longer."

"Safety has to predominate. We have to have that," he said. 

Georgia GOP Congressman Doug Collins, who is running for the Senate, criticized Kemp for what he said is a lack of communication surrounding his plans to lift restrictions, and said local officials should have had more input.

"The president wants the country open. I want the country open. The governor wants the country open," Collins said in an interview with "Fox and Friends." "The problem is, how do you do it? And I think that's the problem with leadership. Leadership is about communicating, and when you are not communicating clearly — look, the governor did not take away the stay-at-home order, but yet selectively decided certain businesses are going to open up."

Georgia GOP Senator Kelly Loeffler backs the governor's decision while Republican Senator David Perdue favors a nuanced approach.

"The governor has been very thoughtful in undertaking this decision," Loeffler, Collins' opponent in the Senate primary, told CBS affiliate WTOC-TV. "He's being guided by leading health officials. This is very gradual and data-driven."

Perdue said he applauds Kemp's efforts to gradually reopen the state.

"He's trying to phase in in a measured way reopening the economy in Georgia, and there's a human cost to closing down businesses just like there's a human cost to the disease, to the virus," he told WTOC.

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