Georgia Small Businesses Balk At Reopening As Defiant Dem Mayors Urge Citizens To "Please Stay Home"

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by Tyler Durden
Wednesday, Apr 22, 2020 - 12:15 PM

Though the coverage doesn't make the linking explicit, the MSM loves to propagate the narrative that millions of Trump-loving, science-rejecting lunatics whipped into a frenzy by the president himself are forcing states to start reopening their economies weeks before the administration's own guidelines would suggest. But as we've learned, this narrative diverges from the reality in several important ways.

In reality, the mostly-southern states leading the reopening charge - Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee - based these decisions on the fact that they were politically popular. Complain all you want about 'tyrannical majoritarianism', for better or worse, this is what their constituents wanted.

Most southerners aren't pushing for states to reopen because they miss seeing their beauticians (for many women of a certain age, it's a big event in their weekly social calendar). They're pushing because they're terrified of being robbed of their livelihood and left with nothing as dithering Washington politicians (including members of the Trump Administration and its supporters in the Republican Party) fritter away the trillions in federal stimulus dollars on giant chains and other already-well-capitalized businesses, ensuring that the small-business apocalypse that everybody fears is right around the corner.

Many people who aren't health care workers have sacrificed a lot during this shutdown. Initial evidence suggests that we overestimated the strain on the public health system. While it's important to be more cautious than necessary, when the livelihoods of millions are at stake, there are seriously high stakes if the shutdown runs too long.

Still, while many support businesses' right to reopen, they're individually wary about being the first out the gate, as Reuters reported Wednesday in a piece examining Georgian small business owners and how they're reacting to the reopening. Caution in the face of the unknown is a naturally human reaction.

One hairdresser told Reuters she hadn't decided yet whether she would reopen right away.

Rebecca Hardin is tired of stay-at-home restrictions that weeks ago shut down the Atlanta hair salon where she works, but she wondered if an order by the state’s governor allowing some businesses to reopen this week was a little premature.

Hardin, a 47-year-old hairdresser who also manages Salon Red in Atlanta’s Candler Park neighborhood, said she needs to get back to work as soon as possible. Even so, she worried that the state is risking a fresh surge of coronavirus infections and loss of life.

"I want to get back to work, but I’m worried it’s too soon," she said. "Friday seems awfully early when we’re facing a deadly disease that has no cure or vaccine."

Hardin was one of a handful of Atlantans who spoke with Reuters after Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s order allowing salons, gyms, bowling alleys, barbershops, tattoo shops and other businesses to reopen as of Friday. Next week, dine-in restaurants and movie theaters will be able to reopen as well.

Despite criticism from public health experts and many local officials, Kemp has described the limited reopening as a measured approach that balances the need to get the state’s economy back in gear with the need to assure the safety of the public’s health.

Hardin said it was still uncertain whether Salon Red would reopen Friday.

"What if I catch it and don’t know I have it and give it to my 8-year-old, or my own parents, let alone my clients," Hardin said. "I don’t know if it’s worth it to just open up now. It’s just hair."

Kemp was one of the last governors in the country to issue a stay-at-home order, which he finally did at the beginning of the month. Roughly a dozen states never ordered a shutdown.

Cases and deaths in the state have remained relatively low, with a rate of just 6 infections per 100,000 people. However, on Monday, the state reported 1,242 new infections over the prior 24 hours, the highest single-day tally in two weeks, while 94 people died, double the state’s previous daily jump. The state has reported roughly 800 deaths and 20,000 cases among its population of 10.6 million.

The CDC warned yesterday that the impact of a serious second wave of the virus could be far worse than the first wave in what sounded like an attempt to dissuade states moving ahead with reopening plans.

There are some towns where the reopening order is wildly popular with the business community, reinforcing the goodwill that many of Trump's supporters feel toward the president.

Steve Tumlin, mayor of the Atlanta suburb of Marietta, said he planned to hit the gym and get a haircut on Friday. On Monday, he was looking forward to eating breakfast, lunch and dinner at Marietta restaurants, he said on social media.

"Thank you Governor Brian Kemp and our state leaders, health leaders and Georgia National Guard," he wrote on Twitter. "Buy, hire, trade and dine in Marietta. Godspeed. Seek out Marietta businesses."

Tumlin’s position is in sharp contrast to other political leaders in the state. Atlanta’s Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said she was not told by the governor that he planned to do this and said, "I don’t see that it’s based on anything logical," the Democrat told the media.

Atlanta resident, Sean Simmons, 45, an automobile detailer, who was walking to get a takeout sandwich in the East Atlanta Village neighborhood, said that he was in favor of opening businesses but was not sure if it was too soon.

"As long as we stay safe, I think maybe we’ll be OK, but I don’t know for sure," he said. "I need to get back to work, but what’s the cost? I know people are struggling. I just don’t have a good answer."

However, there was one group of public officials who were urging people and businesses to ignore Kemp's decision and stay inside: Democrats, specifically Democratic mayors of Georgia's cities.

"Don’t go out," Savannah Mayor Van Johnson, a Democrat, told residents of the eastern Georgia city during a news conference. "People will not come here if they think our businesses are not safe."

The mayor of Atlanta warned residents to "please stay home" and to "listen to the science."

Around the country, governors of roughly half a dozen states are pushing ahead with plans to reopen, though only three are aiming to do so before May 1.

One recent Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll showed a majority of Americans believed stay-at-home orders should remain in place until public health officials determine lifting them is safe, despite the damage to the U.S. economy. Though many are publicly questioning why some areas of the country need to obey such strict lockdown controls when Sweden and Norway never shut down and have still managed to evade the worst consequences of the virus (i.e. Wuhan-level devastation).

“It’s a matter of concern, this whole idea of opening up. It’s based on non-science generated parameters,” Dr. Boris Lushniak, dean of the University of Maryland School of Public Health, told Reuters in an interview.

And just like everything else nowadays, the battle over how to move forward has become political: Ironically, liberals favor a conservative approach (because it will hurt the economy and by extension Trump's reelection prospects) and conservatives are pushing a more liberal approach. In Wisconsin, Republican lawmakers have even filed a lawsuit against Democratic Governor Tony Evers to challenge his order requiring the state to stay on lockdown until May 26. By that point, we suspect the protests urging him to reopen the state will have grown significantly larger.