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States Take Steps to Reopen Regardless of White House Guideline Criteria

Governors of several states announced initial steps to reopen their economies even though their COVID-19 caseloads are not meeting the criteria that they show a decline for two weeks, according to White House reopening guidelines issued April 16.
April 21, 2020, 11am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Georgia Protest
Protestors gathered in January 2019 to protest the election of Georgia Governor Brian Kemp.
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"Residents of Georgia will be allowed on Friday [April 24] to return to the gym and get haircuts, pedicures, massages and tattoos. Next Monday, they can dine again in restaurants and go to the movies," report Rick Rojas and Michael Cooper for The New York Times.

Gov. Brian Kemp [R], in his news conference on Monday, said that he had been frustrated by the issue of testing capacity, but that he also believed that the crisis had leveled off enough to ease restrictions and help alleviate the economic anguish they have helped create. Georgia has had more than 19,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, with 775 deaths, according to state public health officials.

According to the IHME model used by the White House Coronavirus Task Force, it's been two weeks since the state reached its peak projected daily deaths of 100. The Washington Post coronavirus tracker indicates 46 residents died from COVID-19 on April 20 and 646 cases were reported. It also shows that Randolph and Terrell counties have the highest death rates per capita in the nation.

The Whitehouse guidelines, "Opening Up America Again" (posted here), recommend that stay-at-home orders not be relaxed until a "downward trajectory of covid-like syndromic cases [are] reported within a 14-day period." On April 17, CNN reported that only four states are on track to meet those criteria: Vermont, West Virginia, Montana and Hawaii.

Tennessee and Ohio

"In Tennessee, Gov. Bill Lee [R] said on Monday that he was not extending his 'safer-at-home' order that is set to expire on April 30," add Rojas and Cooper

According to his office, “the vast majority of businesses in 89 counties” will be allowed to reopen on May 1. Businesses in Ohio are expected to reopen on that date as well.

Marion County, Ohio has become the nation's hot spot due to contagion at a prison, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

Through Monday, 1,950 of about 2,500 prisoners at the Marion prison have tested positive for COVID-19, along with 154 staff members, about a third of the prison's work force. One guard, John Dawson of Mansfield, Ohio, has died, as has one inmate. Another 34 prisoners have been hospitalized.

Pickaway Correctional Institution, southwest of Columbus, also had a large number of confirmed cases, with 384 inmates and 64 employees testing positive as of Sunday, add Rojas and Cooper.

Despite warnings from health officials and attempts to release some inmates to prevent outbreaks, jails, prisons and detention centers have emerged as major coronavirus spreaders. As of Monday, four of the 10 largest-known sources of infection in the United States were correctional facilities, according to national data collected by The New York Times. [The list shows five correctional institutions, one jail, and two meatpacking plants.]

South Carolina

In South Carolina, Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, said on Monday that department stores and some other retail businesses that had previously been deemed nonessential would be allowed to reopen on Tuesday, but they must abide by social distancing guidelines. People will also be able to gain access to public beaches on Tuesday.

Demonstrations to lift shutdowns

The BBC lists 18 states where demonstrations have taken place to open up businesses. "Experts say those fights between local stakeholders eager to lift the economic shutdown and governors, wary of losing ground against the virus, will be the next battleground in the nation's pandemic response," according to The HIll.

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Published on Monday, April 20, 2020 in The New York Times
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