ATLANTA — As businesses like hair salons and restaurants begin to reopen across Georgia, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms spoke with talk show host Tamron Hall on Monday about Gov. Brian Kemp’s order to start the first phase of reopening parts of the state.
Kemp announced last week that tattoo parlors, salons, barber shops, bowling alleys and a handful of other businesses could reopen Friday with strict social distancing measures in place. Then on Monday, Kemp allowed the reopening of restaurants for dine-in services, again with strict social distancing requirements.
Hall asked the mayor if she was tracking what businesses were reopening.
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“We are not tracking them yet, but what I can say, anecdotally, I'm hearing from a lot of restaurant owners and business owners in the city who are saying they will not open yet,” Bottoms said.
Bottoms told Hall that she has formed an advisory council with small business owners and Fortune 500 companies to figure out how and when to reopen businesses once things get back to normal.
“I know one report, there was a hair salon that reportedly booked appointments a few weeks out as a result of the opening. Are you surprised by those who are deciding, even though it’s right now a minority of businesses, are you surprised by those who have decided it is worth the risk to reopen?” Hall asked Bottoms.
“When I saw that hair salon, it made my heart sink. Because we all know what that means. It means that you're going to have people close to each other, you're going to leave those hair salons, go back to their families and to their communities and potentially spread this virus. It is so surprising to me that people have such a disregard for the science and the data, especially when you look at the African American community, where there is a barbershop and hair salon on every single corner,” Bottoms said.
Hall asked Bottoms about her working relationship with Kemp and her willingness to work across the aisle on certain issues.
“Why do you believe he was unwilling to compromise? Not only is he ignoring the advice from you and leaders within the state, he's also ignoring the president?” Hall asked Bottoms.
“The only thing I can think of is this is driven purely by economics. We are facing a $4 billion shortfall in our state's budget, and I know that when people fill out unemployment applications, they are asked, ‘Do you have the ability to go back to work?’ So perhaps this will impact the benefits that have to be paid out to people,” Bottoms said.
Hall asked Bottoms about Atlanta rapper 2Chainz reversing his decision to reopen his restaurants in the city.
“I know that 2Chainz and his wife, Keisha, have a loving heart for a community which is unparalleled. For them, you’re talking about laying off 80% of his employees,” Bottoms said. “I was so glad that he reached out to me and told me that he would not be opening, because he is listening to reason and logic. What he is saying is, ‘I’m not going to risk putting my employees in harm’s way because we are opening up too soon.’”
“Tyler Perry, obviously another prominent resident of the state, has said now that he is considering opening up the Tyler Perry Studios with certain parameters. That would include, according to reports, screening employees for fever before entering the production facility, and then staying there, living there, until the end of the production. He also notes he would not move forward with any plans that you did not approve of. So, he wants to work with you as the mayor of Atlanta. With that said, can you tell me, do you see a plan ahead, something similar to what Tyler Perry may be considering, coming to get this business back open that is not as extreme as the governor has proposed and implemented at this point?” Hall asked Bottoms.
“It has to be a phased approach,” Bottoms said. “I think it’s very different situation. You know, you have a set of people that have not tested positive and they are living in a contained area. And that is something I would want to get input on from our health experts. We know we will have to phase in this economic recovery. I can even see us opening up dental offices, perhaps, and medical offices, in places where people have access to PPE and know the appropriate way to put it on.”
Bottoms said she is worried that people think they don’t have to worry about coronavirus anymore now that businesses are starting to reopen.
“When I see pictures of people getting their beards trimmed without a mask on, we know that you are putting one another at risk. And that is what this is all about. It’s about not putting each other at risk, especially in a city and in a state where so many people have underlying health conditions that often make this virus deadly,” Bottoms said.
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