Loyalty and Viruses :: Right & Free
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A lot of small businesses in Georgia are in desperate straits. The business owners, many of them sole proprietors, make too much to get stimulus checks. They do not qualify for unemployment. Either they got denied payroll protection program money or the fund ran out.

These businesses — barbershops, tattoo parlors, massage therapists — are services. They cannot mail haircuts or tattoos. They depend on customers. Many of them have longtime clientele. Those businesses are on the verge of going bankrupt while waiting for their customers to come back.

Concurrently, hospitals in Georgia are asking for permission to reopen for elective surgeries. The massive wave of COVID-19 patients came in parts of the state, but never at the scale expected or modeled. Field hospitals have been set up, but they remain empty across the state. Intensive care unit capacity, hospital capacity and ventilator capacity never maxed out. The number of daily cases has dropped for a week except for one expected spike. That spike was expected and came because of a nursing home outbreak. The spread of the virus in the community has stopped.

For more than a month, people demanded Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp listen to the experts. He did. When they said to close the state, he closed. Now the very same experts have told him he can begin a slow reopening of the state. Kemp got the President's blessing and proceeded.

Those struggling sole proprietors and small businesses could open if they met certain criteria regarding safety and sanitation. The requirements of the regulations — masks, temperature checks, regular wipe downs — make it almost impossible for any but the most desperate to comply. Bowling alleys, for example, can technically open, but practically, they cannot comply with the sanitation requirements.

The barber in the small town, with the loyal patrons who all know one another, will be able to open without getting arrested, ticketed, fined or otherwise punished. The tattoo artist who knows his customers will be able to work if he and his customer are comfortable and masked. Desperate small businessmen who cannot get federal money and do not qualify for other benefits will have a lifeline with their destinies in their own hands.

Unfortunately, a national media that has long resented Kemp for having the audacity to beat Stacey Abrams in 2018 decided to attack the governor without any appreciable understanding of what all his requirements for opening entailed. The media blowback made its way to the White House, where the President, who privately supported Kemp, then publicly threw Kemp under the bus. The President, who has been tweeting out in support of liberating states, seems to only want Democratic states liberated, and the states controlled by his own party are to stay in lockdown.

The governor of Georgia is trying to help small businesses in hard times. The virus is not going away. We will have to chart a path forward with the virus in society. The governor decided to try — with the President's blessing — only to then be attacked. We are in a crisis none of us has dealt with in our lifetime. It would be helpful for governors to know they can have a trusting relationship with the President and the President's team.

President Donald Trump throwing Kemp under the bus is not helpful and will undermine other governors attempting to reopen their states. Gov. Jared Polis in Colorado is also trying to reopen his state. The media has largely avoided Polis. One must wonder what the media reaction would be if Polis were a Republican.

Polis' actions should have given Trump an opportunity to deflect from criticizing Kemp. Instead, Trump's attack on Kemp will only embolden Democrats who want to take back Georgia.

I think Kemp should have waited another week or two and worked to get everyone educated and clear on the data. The data is, however, on his side, and the experts most familiar with Georgia agree. We need a path forward around a virus that is not going away, and Kemp should be encouraged, not condemned, for trying to find that path.

Last updated: April 23rd, 2020 at 13:04 pm

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