Gov. Kemp says data is on his side in decision to reopen state

Kemp explains why he chose to open some businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic.

ATLANTA — It’s the decision making news coast to coast from the networks, financial channels and even a major topic on ABC’s The View.

Georgia is the first state in the country partially opening its economy.

It is a highly polarizing decision Gov. Brian Kemp made on Monday, with strong opinions on both sides around the decision.

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Channel 2 anchor Justin Farmer spoke with Kemp on Tuesday to address the concerns from Channel 2 Action News viewers.

Kemp told Farmer that the data showed it is safe to start reopening the state.

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“I haven't considered whether I was first or not. I was making the decision based on the data, based on my discussions with Dr. (Kathleen) Toomey, and where we were in our state and where I felt like we needed to go,” Kemp said.

“Governor, there are some who are questioning some of your businesses listed, such as a bowling alley or a fitness studio, a gym, where people are really interacting and touching a lot of the same surfaces and they’re sweating and sort of breathing intensely. What do you say to that?” Farmer asked Kemp.

“I’d tell you, what’s worse: going to a grocery store and walking down the aisles with people, or whether it’s being on your own bowling alley lane? We’re not saying these businesses can start having large gatherings at the bowling alley,” Kemp said.

The governor told Farmer he is well aware of the heat he’s taking from Atlanta’s mayor to talk shows and other governors, but he said he’s trying to find a balance between health and economic concerns

“We are having runs on our food banks right now,” Kemp said. “We literally have working Georgians out there that are on the verge of losing everything.”

Kemp said the data he has from health officials around the state is that Georgia may have actually hit its peak April 6.

“If we experience flare-ups anywhere, we now have tools to deal with that,” Kemp said. “We just got in a position here in talking to hospital CEOs and their bed capacity issues continue to go down. We have more bed capacity in the state of Georgia now than we had, i think when this thing started.”

The governor said there will still be social distancing enforcement.

“If we have people that just adamantly won’t follow the guidelines, then we’ll make more stern enforcement actions. We certainly have that power to do that as well as local law enforcement,” Kemp said.

Farmer asked Kemp if he had yet to speak with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. He said they’ve not spoken, but that they have a good working relationship.

Kemp also reminded all Georgia mayors that cities cannot do more or less than the order, meaning a mayor cannot disallow a restaurant or salon from opening.

Justin Farmer speaks 1-on-1 with Gov. Brian Kemp