A man wears a protective mask while walking past a closed Bar in the Little Italy section of Manhattan in New York City on Tuesday. A few states are starting to let businesses reopen. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
April 24 (UPI) -- Georgia and Oklahoma are going ahead with plans to allow some non-essential businesses to reopen Friday under relaxed coronavirus-related restrictions.
All non-essential businesses in all 50 states have been closed for weeks as a measure to stem the spread of COVID-19. Most states have begun to plan strategies to reopen, and some will start in the next few days.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced a week ago that non-essential businesses could begin to reopen Friday, despite criticism from some local mayors and President Donald Trump. They will include fitness centers, barber shops, hair salons, tattoo parlors and bowling alleys.
"Unlike other businesses, these entities have been unable to manage inventory, deal with payroll and take care of administrative items while we shelter in place," Kemp said this week. "This measure allows them to undertake baseline operations that most other businesses in the state have maintained."
Kemp said more Georgia businesses will be allowed to reopen on Monday, subject to "specific social distancing and sanitation mandates." They include theaters, private social clubs and restaurant dine-in services.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms disagrees with the governor's decision.
"When I look at the data, I see our [COVID-19] numbers are going up," Bottoms told CNN. "I have searched my head and my heart on this and I am at a loss as to what the governor is basing this decision on."
State health officials reported a sharp drop in new coronavirus cases this week. Thirty new cases were logged Thursday, down from a peak of more than 700 nine days ago.
Trump warned Kemp this week against allowing businesses to reopen, saying it's "too soon." The governor defended his plan as a "measured step" that's "driven by data and guided by state public health officials."
Many experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious diseases official, have said reopening too soon could invite a new round of infections.
Personal care businesses such as hair salons and barber shops will reopen Friday by appointment only. They must follow sanitation and social distancing guidelines under Gov. Kevin Stitt's "Open Up and Recover Safely" plan.
Oklahoma churches can begin to reopen on May 1.
"These businesses must maintain distance between customers and encourage customers to wait in their car until it's time for their appointment to avoid congestion in the lobbies or their entrances," Stitt said.
Oklahoma House minority leader Emily Virgin questioned the Republican governor's decision. She said Stitt is acting from "a place of fear" and warned that he shouldn't make decisions hastily.
"Reopening without proper data and against the scientific community puts Oklahoma workers in a dangerous position to have to choose between their safety and their job," she said. "We urge the governor to reconsider until better data is available."
There are several other states that have plans to reopen business and churches in the coming days.
In Texas, retail stores on Friday will be able to start operating retail-to-go service, in which businesses deliver items to customers' cars, homes or other locations.
Alaska is also planning to reopen some non-essential businesses Friday, like restaurants and personal care services.
In Florida, a task force appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis to determine the state's reopening strategy is expected to deliver its report Friday.
DeSantis was one of the last governors to issue a stay-at-home order on April 1. It expires April 30.
The governor's task force includes four groups working on a set of guidelines for reopening businesses -- including a plan for the state's vital tourism trade.
Montana is planning to allow some businesses and churches to reopen on Monday, "if they can adhere to requirements to limit capacity and maintain strict physical distancing," and Tennessee has said it will allow restaurants to reopen Monday.
Bass Pro Shops marketing manager David Smith (R) carries a box of donated face masks into Mercy Health in Chesterfield, Mo., on May 13. The company is donating 1 million FDA-approved ASTM Level 1 Procedure Face Masks to healthcare workers and first responders working on the front lines of the pandemic. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo