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Reopening the Economy: Is Georgia Jumping the Gun?

Updated: Oct 28, 2020

By: Molly Amick

In Georgia, stay-at-home orders and business shutdowns are beginning to be lifted under the decision of Governor Brian Kemp. This includes the reopening of basic services such as churches, gyms and salons--which were permitted to reopen on April 24--and extends to entertainment industries such as bowling alleys, movie theaters and restaurants, which were permitted to open on the following Tuesday. This decision was a controversial one, concerning many in regard to the unfaltering presence of COVID-19 in the state, viewing the reopening of nonessential business services as an unnecessary endangerment to Georgia’s people. Others, desiring a return to normalcy and concerned for the lack of economic stimulus within the state, wanted to see these businesses coming back. The state also saw an overall decreasing trend in coronavirus cases, prompting this decision to stimulate the economy again.

Lifting Georgia's stay-at-home orders may enliven the state's economy, but at what cost?

While this yearning for activities and services is understandable and having businesses up and running again would be ideal, now is not the time to make these changes to lockdown orders. CNN reports that mayors across Georgia showed concern about Kemp’s decision, especially considering that the state has actually been experiencing climbing numbers in COVID-19 deaths. Keisha Lance Bottoms, the mayor of Atlanta, advised people to continue the isolation efforts they’ve been practicing, warning the state’s citizens that “nothing has changed.” This concern was warranted: after reopening many businesses May 1, the state noticed a spike in positive cases.

Though the sudden increase of positive COVID-19 cases was brief, and the state resumed its general decrease of positive tests, it is not inherently safe for the state to resume life as usual. Just because the state is reporting downward trends in overall cases does not mean people aren’t still suffering and dying from the virus each day. It means Georgia is continually observing more new cases than the number of new cases discovered the previous day. Many people are still getting infected daily. And though this is an improvement from the increasing trend in cases, it doesn’t justify the state’s reopening. The rate of infection may be calming down, but those who do (and those who will) continue to contract the virus will be facing the terrible discomfort and possible fatality we know the virus is capable of causing. It is insensitive to jeopardize the health of vulnerable populations such as individuals who are elderly, immunocompromised or in unstable health for the sake of the general economy, even more so when so many Georgia citizens aren’t on board with the reopening.

In addition, an important aspect of the data to question is the accuracy of reports. Keren Landman, a specialist in infectious diseases writing for the “New York Times,” noted that “among data curves, some of which conflicted with each other, there are weeklong lags in Georgia’s reporting of Covid-19 cases and deaths.” Joshua Weitz, who specializes in disease dynamics, added, “Georgia’s public health funding is substantially lower than that of other states; you get the data quality you pay for.” When a large part of the justification of the governor’s order is shown to be speculative, it isn’t wrong to be distressed about it.

Considering the seriousness of the virus and the gravity of its consequences, improving the state’s economy comes at a risk that is all too high. Ultimately, the safety of the people should hold more weight than the attempt at providing a safety net for the state’s economy.

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