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Trump parts ways with Kemp on reopening businesses
Governor Brian Kemp
Governor Brian Kemp dresses the media during a press conference on March 12, 2020 about COVID-19. - photo by Special to The Covington News

ATLANTA — President Donald Trump said Wednesday he disagrees with Gov. Brian Kemp’s decision to let some Georgia businesses open late this week and early next week despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Kemp announced Monday he would let “close-contact” businesses including barbershops and hair salons reopen on Friday. Dine-in restaurants and movie theaters will be allowed to reopen on Monday.

The state board that regulates barbershops and hair salons released guidelines Tuesday to govern the reopening of those businesses, requiring employees to wear masks and thoroughly clean their premises. Guidelines for restaurants are expected later this week.

After speaking with Kemp by phone late Tuesday, Trump said Wednesday he believes it’s too soon to be reopening businesses in Georgia.

“When you have spas, beauty parlors, tattoo parlors and barbershops … maybe you want to wait a bit longer,” Trump told reporters early Wednesday evening during his daily coronavirus press briefing at the White House.

Kemp also has come under fire from public health experts and mayors across Georgia for moving ahead with reopening businesses while deaths from COVID-19 continue to mount and new positive cases remain on the rise. As of 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, 21,102 Georgians had tested positive for coronavirus and 846 had died.

However, the governor also has drawn support from some local elected officials. The Monroe County Commission adopted a resolution this week endorsing reopening businesses, and several members of the Cobb County Commission have individually voiced their support.

Kemp has defended his decision as a “measured action” to get Georgians back to work safely, given the social distancing restrictions that will apply to reopening businesses and his commitment to ramp up testing for COVID-19 and contact tracing patients who have tested positive to identify people with whom they have come into contact.

Trump said he has a good relationship with Kemp and noted he helped Kemp get elected by endorsing him before the 2018 Republican gubernatorial primary at a time he was trailing.

“Do I agree with him [on reopening businesses]? No,” the president said. “But I respect him and will let him make that decision.”