A plan by Georgia’s governor to begin reopening the state faced widespread criticism on Tuesday as public health experts — backed by some elected officials in both parties — warned that the virus had not leveled off enough to ease restrictions that were imposed to curb its spread.
Gov. Brian Kemp said Monday that he would allow certain businesses, including gyms, nail and hair salons, bowling alleys and tattoo parlors, to begin operating as soon as Friday. Under Mr. Kemp’s approach, which he said he approved because he believed the situation had sufficiently stabilized, dine-in restaurants, theaters and other entertainment venues could resume operations on Monday.
But some Georgia mayors, barred from issuing their own restrictions, urged residents to ignore the reopenings and stay at home.
Mr. Kemp is not alone among governors in seeking to relax restrictions. South Carolina is pressing ahead with a partial reopening on Tuesday — two weeks after restrictions were put in place — of retail shops that had been deemed “nonessential,” such as sporting goods, book and craft stores. Beaches were also allowed to reopen in the state, which has recorded nearly 4,000 cases and more than 100 deaths.
On Folly Beach, a seven-mile-long barrier island outside Charleston with a single access bridge, Mayor Tim Goodwin was struggling with the implications of the governor’s plan. Like most beach towns in the area, he said, Folly Beach planned to keep its roadblock to nonresidents but open beaches to people who live or work on the island. Mr. Goodwin and mayors of neighboring islands may let in nonresidents, but he said he would base his decision on advice from scientists.
Mr. Goodwin said he and the other mayors recently shared a photo of the fictional Mayor Larry Vaughn from “Jaws,” who faced intense pressure to reopen beaches despite obvious warning signs — with the result that visitors died in the teeth of the shark. “Every time they talk about reopening something here, I hear that theme music from ‘Jaws’ in my head,” Mr. Goodwin said.
The governors of Ohio and Tennessee have also taken early steps toward reopening their states. Mr. Kemp, though, was the target of some of the most ferocious criticism on Tuesday.