Governor allows bars, nightclubs to reopen while extending public health emergency

Bar owners ready to get back to work as governor allows them reopen following coronavirus

ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp announced that more Georgia businesses can reopen in a few days and many restrictions will be lifted.

Among some of the biggest announcements that came out of an afternoon news conference by Kemp, was that bars and nightclubs will be allowed to reopen June 1.

[READ: Governor’s new executive order signed today]

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“Bars and nightclubs can decide to reopen if they comply with strict sanitation and social distancing rules, all crafted to reflect industry practices and mitigate health risk. To open their doors, bars and nightclubs must meet thirty-nine mandatory measures to ensure patron well-being,” Kemp said.

Summer school and overnight summer camps will be allowed to resume, and pro sports will also be able to do team activities, but live entertainment venues will stay closed for now.

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Kemp said he feels the time is right to ease restrictions. He also allowed gatherings of people to be increased.

“Starting June 1, 2020, you can have gatherings of more than twenty-five people in a single location if you have at least six feet between each person,” Kemp said. "Small weddings, recreational sports, and similar events will be able to resume with a little more flexibility, but we are asking everyone to stay vigilant. Please continue to follow public health advice as you engage in these activities.”

Even though we're seeing an uptick in COVID-19 cases coming out of the Memorial Day weekend, Kemp thinks it's time to start allowing more of Georgia to reopen.

But not everyone agrees.

Channel 2’s Richard Elliot was at the Capitol as Kemp said he was renewing his state of emergency until July 12.

“We continue to strongly encourage all Georgians and visitors to wear face coverings in public to mitigate viral spread, and restrictions remain intact for nearly every Georgia business to keep employees and customers safe,” Kemp said.

Starting June 12, amusement parks can also reopen.

“Across the peach state, businesses are reopening their doors with robust safety precautions in place and customers are slowly but surely returning,” Kemp said.

Earlier in the day, Kemp and Sen. Kelly Loeffler visited a northwest Atlanta manufacturing facility.

Its owners said federal payroll protection program money arrived in the nick of time, so they didn’t have to lay off their 65 employees.

Kemp acknowledged an uptick in COVID-19 cases coming out of the Memorial Day weekend but chalked them up to a private company dumping all at once a backlog of 15,000 test results dating back to April.

“It’s good that they got caught up. It’s bad that they had a big dump, so it looks like we had a spike, but really, when you kind of spread that out over that time frame, it wasn’t anything unusual.

But Georgia Democrats disagree.

In a virtual news conference, the House Democratic Caucus said its tracking of the numbers still show an upward trajectory so the reopenings worry them.

“We’re not charting anything that’s going down. Our charts are telling us everything is going up. We haven’t sustained any downward turn for any extended period of time and now it looks like it’s going up,” said State Rep. Shelly Hutchinson, D-Snellville.

Kemp also attributes the higher numbers to more testing being done at nursing homes. He also said the number of people being hospitalized with COVID-19 is decreasing.

The state is also thinking about temporarily shutting down the temporary hospital at the Georgia World Congress Center because right now it’s not needed.

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