Georgia businesses hesitant to embrace Kemp's call to reopen

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FILE - In this April 16, 2020, file photo, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp listens to a question from the press during a tour of a temporary hospital at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. Kemp plans to have many of his states businesses up and running again as soon as Friday, April 24. (AP Photo/Ron Harris, Pool, File)

ATLANTA – Gov. Brian Kemp's call to reopen shuttered businesses in Georgia left many business owners wary and confused Tuesday as they considered how to protect themselves and their customers in a state where coronavirus deaths exceed 800 and confirmed infections have surpassed 20,000.

Kemp’s plan to kick-start the economy is one of the most aggressive announced since President Donald Trump laid out benchmarks for states to start lifting restrictions. But Georgia's testing system has lagged behind much of the nation and public health experts warned that moving too quickly could fuel a resurgence in infections.

“It’s concerning. I’m certainly not going to go the gym or get a haircut,” said Dr. Carlos del Rio, an infectious disease expert at Emory University in Atlanta. “I’ll let people make their own decisions.”

Kemp’s order lets gyms, hair and nail salons, bowling alleys and tattoo parlors open with restrictions Friday. Restaurants can resume dine-in service Monday, though bars and nightclubs must remain closed.

“The private sector is going to have to convince the public that it’s safe to come back into these businesses,” Kemp said Monday.

During a White House briefing Tuesday evening, Trump called Kemp a “very capable man” who “knows what he’s doing.” Trump said he was planning to talk to Kemp soon, but he didn't give more details.

Georgia has processed more than 900,000 new unemployment claims in the last month. But many business owners aren't convinced it's time to end the lockdown.

“I think most of our customers are not ready to venture out yet,” said Kristin Allin, who, along with her husband, owns Bread & Butterfly restaurant in Atlanta. She said her restaurant will remain closed for now, possibly for another month or more.