Kemp has steadily eased restrictions imposed in early April to help contain the pandemic, making a case that the economic fallout has rivaled the disease's threat to public safety.
"I think it's time," said state Rep. Kasey Carpenter, R-Dalton, a restaurant owner who has praised Kemp's rollback. "There is still a lot of confusion in the marketplace, but hopefully this is a big step toward operational normalcy."
Democrats and some public health experts have sharply criticized Kemp's approach, fearing that the relaxed restrictions could trigger a new wave of the virus.
Among them is state Rep. Jasmine Clark, an Emory University microbiologist, who called it an "odd decision" given a recent increase in cases of the virus.
“I think the governor has given up fighting COVID-19,” she said. “That said, I implore everyone to please continue to be safe and recognize that this virus is still among us. Wear masks, social distance, wash hands and stay home as much as possible.”
The rate of new coronavirus cases in Georgia has appeared to plateau in recent weeks, according to state data, although on Thursday officials reported the highest increase in new diagnoses of the disease since May 1.
The number of Georgians hospitalized by the virus has dropped since May 1, the data shows.
An analysis by The Washington Post showed that more than a dozen states, including three that border Georgia, are showing new highs in the number of positive cases or hospitalizations since relaxing restrictions on businesses and large gatherings.
And public health officials have raised concerns that protests against police brutality across the nation could spread the disease. Georgia recently issued plans for test sites so demonstrators can get screened for the coronavirus.
Other parts of Kemp's order establish guidelines for the return of amateur and professional sports leagues, and loosen a testing requirement for campers and staffers at overnight summer camps in the state.
New regulations clear the way for circuses, carnivals and temporary amusement parks to resume operations, and they lift limits on party size at movie theaters. Capacity limits on bars were relaxed.
And buffets and salad bars are allowed if there's a staffer on duty to serve customers or if there's a sneeze guard and sanitizer in place.