Georgia reported 635 new coronavirus cases and 20 more deaths in a 24-hour period ending at noon on Friday, the same day its governor is letting some businesses reopen.
The state now has 22,147 cases and its death toll stands at 892, according to Georgia’s department of health.
But despite the increase in new cases and additional deaths, businesses such as barbershops and nail salons are allowed to open Friday under an executive order signed by Gov. Brian Kemp (R).
The order also allows gyms and fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, cosmetologists, estheticians and massage therapists to open Friday. Theaters, private social clubs and dine-in restaurants will be allowed to open on Monday.
Kemp has faced widespread backlash from leaders at all levels of government, including President Trump, and public health experts who warn that reopening businesses now could help spread the deadly virus.
“I wasn’t happy with Brian Kemp,” Trump said at a White House news briefing Thursday. “I wasn’t at all happy.”
Trump said he told Kemp that Georgia would be violating the White House guidelines for reopening, which recommend states wait for a downward trajectory in new cases over 14 days before lifting restrictions on businesses.
“I said, ‘You make your own decision,’ I told him that,” Trump said. “I said, ‘You’re not on the guidelines, but I’m letting you make your own decision, but I want people to be safe and I want the people in Georgia to be safe, and I don’t want this thing to flare up because you’re deciding to do something that is not in the guidelines.'”
Kemp defended his decision Thursday night on Twitter after the president’s remarks, saying his team had worked closely with the Trump administration to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in the state.
“Our decisions and direction are informed by data and public health recommendations,” Kemp said. “We remain focused on protecting the lives – and livelihoods – of all Georgians.”
He noted that reopened businesses will be required to screen workers for symptoms and enhance sanitation, among other precautions.