Georgia health board asks Kemp to reconsider opening of businesses

The Macon-Bibb County Board of Health voted unanimously Wednesday to request that Gov. Brian Kemp rescind his order to open businesses including barbershops, spas, tattoo parlors and salons.

The Central Georgia health board met Wednesday to discuss the governor’s decision, which has been met with mixed reactions.

Health experts and several Georgia mayors have responded with concern about the swift reopening of thousands of businesses in Georgia. Some of Kemp’s conservative supporters have praised the move to usher in the reopening of the economy, which has suffered in the wake of COVID-19.

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Macon's board of health vote happened just before noon Wednesday. It was a 6-0 vote. Dr. Patrice Walker was absent from the meeting and did not vote, according to a report by WMAZ.

“I think (Georgia) fails to meet the gating criteria set by the feds” to reopen, member Christopher Tsavatewa said during the teleconference meeting Wednesday.

Macon-Bibb Commissioner Joe Allen questioned whether the decision would have a reverse effect on business, leading to more shutdowns if cases increase. There are more than 20,000 cases in the state, with more than 830 Georgians succumbing to the virus.

Tsavatewa said the state of COVID-19 is still “abysmal” and said “we could have waited some more time.”

Macon-Bibb Commissioner Larry Schlesinger, who is not a board member but listened in to the meeting, said Kemp’s order to begin reopening “takes complete control from local government.”

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The board vote echoes the sentiment of some of the members of the governor’s Coronavirus Task Force. Some members said they didn’t realize Kemp would move to open businesses so soon. Bernice King, co-chair of the community outreach committee, said in a video she was considering stepping down after she found out about Kemp’s plans via a friend.

“Like many of you who are in the state of Georgia, I’m extremely concerned about the governor’s plans and what his decisions will mean for the safety, health and lives of Georgia residents,” said King, who is also chief executive of The King Center and daughter of the slain civil rights leader.

In addition to the quickness of businesses opening, Macon-Bibb Commissioner Elaine Lucas also said the decision should be reversed because it will be difficult to monitor whether businesses that reopen are following safety guidelines.

“I just don’t see how it is possible to monitor any of these places that are reopening,” she said.