Kemp, a Republican and an ally of President Trump, just called for the reopening within days of his state’s gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, body-art studios, barbers, nail salons, cosmetologists, aestheticians, beauty schools, massage therapists, theaters, private social clubs and dine-in restaurants.
He’s doing this even though the state ranks near last in testing, even though it’s not clear that covid-19 cases are declining there, and even knowing “we’re probably going to have to see our cases continue to go up,” as Kemp himself said.
Public health experts fear coronavirus will burn through Georgia like nothing has since William Tecumseh Sherman. But Kemp is making a big gamble that his constituents wouldn’t want to swab places with anyone, and that tourists will be dying to get to Georgia in any class of travel — economy, economy plus or intensive care — as the Peachtree State remakes itself as the Petri State.
When gyms and fitness centers reopen, residents of Georgia will have a whole new range of exercise classes to help them flatten the curve, including the total-body workout CrossImmunity and a new aerobics-and-flexibility boot camp called SuperSpreader.
Newly reopened aestheticians will offer the latest in antibody sculpting, and skilled therapists statewide plan to offer discounts on deep lung-tissue massage.
The return of bowling leagues is bound to increase the strike rate among those who participate, leaving relatively few to spare.
Diners will crowd into wet-market-to-table restaurants to experience a growing sampling of zoonotic dishes (ACE2 proteins offered for vegans), and mixologists will experiment with heart-stopping cocktails of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin.
As “private social clubs” reopen, the Elks and Lions will develop herd immunity, while Legionnaires will flourish.
It has been 88 years since Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis developed the idea of states serving as “laboratories of democracy.” But even that great thinker probably couldn’t have imagined states serving as actual laboratories, experimenting with the spread of infectious diseases in their populations. Now several Republican governors, with Trump’s encouragement, are racing to reopen during the pandemic, using their constituents as lab rats to see what happens when you relax virus containment.
Talk about poor modeling. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has opened many retail stores and lifted restrictions on beaches. Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida will take reopening recommendations from a task force that includes Disney and Universal Studios. Texas, Tennessee and others are joining the race to become death destinations.
But nobody is as far out there as Kemp. Jimmy Carter, who served as Georgia’s governor before becoming president, may have been a peanut farmer. But Kemp is an actual nut. Earlier this month, when he announced one of the last stay-at-home orders in the nation, he stated that he hadn’t known “until the last 24 hours” that asymptomatic people could spread the coronavirus. This had been known for a couple of months to anyone paying attention.
But Kemp is not without guile. As Georgia’s secretary of state, he purged half a million names from voting rolls — then beat his opponent for governor by only 55,000 votes. Now he seems to have embarked on a new purge: inducing his constituents to shuffle off this mortal coil.
Perhaps he should abandon all pretense and turn his reopening into a parade and festival?
As a promotion, Georgia could offer ventilators to the first 100 hotel guests to register (room service would offer supplementary oxygen at no cost to all others). Atlanta’s own Coca-Cola would sponsor festivities, using the new slogan “Share a Coke with Covid-19.” The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra would perform a new variation on Berlioz, “The Damnation of Fauci.” Trump and Kemp would lead a packed house at Atlanta’s State Farm Arena in burning their face masks the way feminists (apocryphally) burned bras and Vietnam War protesters actually burned draft cards.
There would be no containing the excitement! It would be an unmitigated success! And Kemp’s experiment would go viral in truly historic ways.