ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp announced Monday what he called limited, sensible steps forward to reopening Georgia for business.
“For weeks now, our state has taken targeted action to prevent, detect and address the spread of coronavirus by leveraging data and advice from health officials in the public and private sectors. Thanks to this methodical approach and the millions of Georgians who have worked diligently to slow the spread of coronavirus, we are on track to meet the gating criteria for phase one,” Kemp said.
Kemp said his new order will allow gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, barbers, cosmetologists, hair designers, nail care artists, estheticians, their respective schools and massage therapists to resume operations by Friday as long as they comply with social distancing requirements.
By Monday, movie theaters may resume selling tickets and restaurants limited to takeout orders can go back to limited dine-in service. Bars and nightclubs will remain closed for now.
"In the same way that we carefully closed businesses and urged operations to end to mitigate the virus’ spread, today we’re announcing plans to incrementally and safely reopen sectors of our economy." Kemp said. "This measure will apply statewide and will be the operational standard in all jurisdictions. This means local action cannot be taken that is more or less restrictive.”
Kemp also said he is allowing the statewide shelter-in-place order to expire on April 30 at 11:59 p.m.
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"We urge everyone to continue to follow CDC and DPH guidance by sheltering in place as often as you can,” Kemp said. “Limit your travel and limit who goes with you on errands to prevent potential exposure. If possible, wear face masks or cloth coverings when you are in public to slow the spread of coronavirus.”
The governor said his medical emergency order for the elderly and medically fragile to stay inside of will remain in place until May 13.
“Given the heightened risk of adverse consequences from your exposure to coronavirus, this is the recommended -- and safest -- path forward,” Kemp said. “We will release more details as we near the end of the month so medically fragile and elderly Georgians will have adequate time to prepare.”
During his news conference, Kemp said in-person church services will be allowed to resume with strict social-distancing rules in place.
“I urge faith leaders to continue to help us in this effort and keep their congregations safe by heeding the advice of public health officials. Of course, online, call-in or drive-in services remain good options for religious institutions,” Kemp said.
The governor said he was encouraging Georgians to download the telemedicine app developed by Augusta University as part of their comprehensive plan to screen, test, and treat patients for coronavirus.
“This app has enhanced public health while reducing exposure for our doctors, nurses and medical staff. We are encouraging symptomatic Georgians to download the app this week and begin the screening process,” Kemp said.
You can download Augusta University Health ExpressCare on your smartphone here. You can also call 706-721-1852 if you are symptomatic.
“If you meet criteria for testing, staff will contact you to schedule a test at one of the state’s designated testing locations near your home. Your health care information will be securely transmitted to your designated testing site,” Kemp said. “From there, we will leverage the power of several key academic institutions in the state to process tests. These include Augusta University, Emory University, Georgia State University and the Georgia Public Health Lab. In roughly 72 hours, you will be able to access your test results via a secure patient portal, and a medical provider will contact you directly if you are positive.”
Kemp also said he will allow hospitals to start some elective surgeries again.
“Given the recent changes in modeling as it relates to surge capacity and national supply as the needs of other states diminish and following weeks of discussions with hospital leaders and medical providers, I believe Georgia is positioned to secure the necessary personal protective equipment for health care facilities to resume elective surgeries deemed essential,” Kemp said.
Kemp said he is deploying 10 new strike teams to help in hot spots across the state.
“I am confident that together, we will emerge victorious from this war. With your help and God’s grace, we will build a safer, stronger, and more prosperous state for our families and generations to come,” Kemp said.