Some US governors move to reopen their states, though some local leaders are pushing back


Shopping carts sit in the entrance of a closed T.J. Maxx store in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, U.S., on Thursday, April 16, 2020. Employee furloughs in the retail industry are now well over 1 million after the owner of T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, one of America’s biggest clothing store chains, suspended its store workers. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A fewstates are moving toward reopening their economies amid the coronavirus pandemic, but some local leaders don’t want their residents to go along — even as idled workers weigh the benefits of getting paychecks again.

In Georgia and South Carolina, Republican governors announced they’ll ease restrictions this week despite neither meeting White House recommendations of a two-week downward trend in cases before lifting measures in phases.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, saying workers and business owners need relief, said businesses including bowling alleys, body art studios and hair and nail salons can reopen this week. Theaters and restaurants can reopen next week with social distancing restrictions.

Local governments can’t countermand the decision — but some mayors are asking their residents to stay home.

“I’m exhorting everybody in this community to continue to shelter in place,” Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, Mayor Kelly Girtztold CNN Tuesday, pointing toward the federal guidelines. “Do not reopen at this point. It’s not the time to do it.

“It’s like telling your quarterback, ‘We don’t have a helmet for you, we don’t have pads, but get out there on the field and just try not to get sacked,'” said Girtz, who’s identified as a Democrat, though Georgia municipal races tend to be nonpartisan.

In the Georgia city of Albany, with a relatively high number of cases, Mayor Bo Dorough wants the state to give him an exception so he can keep nonessential businesses closed to inhibit the virus’ spread.

“(Our hospitals) remain at capacity,” Dorough said Tuesday.

But millions across the country are newly unemployed and many businesses are hurting — even some medical centers. Many rural hospitals, for instance, are facing financial ruin and have furloughed tens of thousands of employees as they’ve been forced to cancel elective procedures.

In South Carolina, GOP Gov. Henry McMaster allowed some businesses — such as book stores, flower shops and flea markets — to reopen Monday afternoon, even as the state’s leading epidemiologist announced the state had not seen a two-week downward trajectory.

Josh Outlaw-Hughes, a furniture salesman in West Columbia, South Carolina, told CNN that deciding whether to work will be hard. He doesn’t want to infect himself or others, and so he would rather stay home until health professionals assure him it’s safe, he said.

“But at the same time, I’m running really low on money. So, I’m between a rock and a hard place of: Do I go back to work to try and make money and risk getting sick? Or do I stay home and go broke?” Outlaw-Hughes said Monday.

More than 787,900 people in the US have been infected with the virus. At least 42,364 have died. That’s about an 80% increase from the total death toll a week ago.

Deaths in the country nearly doubled in the past week as more governors rolled out plans to reopen their economies while other state leaders warned their case numbers are still on the rise.

Some of the surge in the deaths came as some states began to report probable Covid-19 deaths without supporting lab tests. It’s not always clear when those deaths happened, so it is difficult to compare the totals day by day.

Your coronavirus questions, answered

Which states are moving toward reopening

In South Carolina, stores will open at 20% capacity, or 5 people per 1,000 square feet. The state has reported 4,439 infections and 124 deaths.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, this week announced the vast majority of his state’s businesses will be allowed to reopen on May 1. Some businesses may be able to reopen as soon as Monday, the governor said. At least 7,238 residents have contracted the virus and 152 have died.

In Alaska — with at least 321 cases and 9 deaths — GOPGov. Mike Dunleavy announced he intends to relax some of the state’s restrictions this week, allowing some businesses — such as restaurants and hair salons — to reopen.

“We’re going to try to do everything we can to move Alaska back and get Alaskans back to work,” Dunleavy said.

Dunleavy said restaurants would be required to allow only members of an immediate family to sit together and may have to take reservations to ensure that social distancing can be maintained.

In Georgia, Kemp said Monday his state was “on track” to meeting the federal government’s guidance to have a 14-day continuous decline in coronavirus cases before reopening.

Last week, more than 5,700 new coronavirus cases were reported in Georgia, a rate that wasdown about 6% from the week before, but still higher than the week that ended April 5, when fewer than 3,800 new cases were reported. The numbers are based on data collected by CNN and Johns Hopkins University.

Georgia saw day-over-day increases in reported cases Saturday through Monday, but each day’s total was below Friday’s, according to JHU. New case numbers can be affected by changes in the number of tests conducted and the time it takes for testing data to be reported to authorities.

Kemp acknowledged case rates may rise in his state — but argued Georgia is prepared.

“We’re a lot better prepared for that now than we were over a month ago,” he said Monday. “We have the hospital bed capacity. … The ramped up testing we’re doing, the contact tracing that we’re going to be doing … I believe we’ll be able to stay on top of it. “

“Our small business owners are seeing sales plummet, and … contract workers are struggling to put food on the table,” he said.

In Florida, where beaches in Jacksonville reopened last week, the mayor in Miami-Dade County said that wasn’t happening in his jurisdiction any time soon.

Mayor Carlos Gimenez, a Republican, said reopening the county will be determined by medical experts and when that time comes, it will require social distancing, face coverings and groups of no more than 10 people — with those regulations enforced by police.

Meanwhile, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, a Democrat whose stay-at-home order expires May 8, said cases are still on the incline — and before lifting restrictions, she said the state would have to hit some milestones, including a continuous decrease in cases and an ability to support vulnerable populations.

New York City cancels June events

In New York, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has offered glimmers of hope for residents after announcing the state had likely moved past its peak — but is still far from out of the woods yet.

“The three-day average of hospitalizations is going down, the number of intubations is going down again. That is great news,” he said Monday but added emergency rooms were still at or over capacity in the state. “We have to watch this until we have a medical treatment or we have a vaccine. That’s when this is really over.”

In New York City, the mayor announced Monday all nonessential events were cancelled through June as well. That includes parades, concerts, rallies and any large gatherings.

Both Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, andCuomo have appealed to the federal government for financial support. If the federal government doesn’t provide funding, the state’s financial plan this week will forecast a 20% cut to schools, local governments and hospitals, Cuomo said. De Blasio said the city will have spent $3.5 billion in response to the crisis by the end of the year.

“You Mr. President are not saying ‘I see your burden, I see the fight your waging, let me offer a helping hand, let me save the day by taking that burden off of New York City,'” the mayor said.

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