Southern States Prepare to Reopen as Experts Warn Stay-at-Home Orders Must Be Lifted Gradually

Three southern states are preparing to loosen restrictions on businesses and "reopen the economy" in the coming weeks, in spite of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Between Monday and Tuesday, the governors of Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina announced their intentions to get some people back to work as early as next week. None of these states have seen a decline in COVID-19 rates, according to a report by The New York Times.

Starting on Friday, May 1, Georgia is allowing businesses like gyms, beauty salons and even tattoo parlors to reopen, Gov. Brian Kemp announced on Monday. At the same time, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee revealed that he is not extending his state's "safer-at-home" order beyond April 30, despite federal recommendations. Businesses in South Carolina and Ohio are set to reopen on May 1 as well, and medical experts are warning that this could have catastrophic effects for the population.

In their public statements, the governors of these states have acknowledged that the pandemic is far from over, and that daily life will not return to "normal" with the reopening of businesses. Still, they seem to believe that there is a way to put some people back to work safely, for the good of the economy.

"We're going to do what we think is right — what I think is right — and that is try to open this economy," said Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on NBC's Meet the Press, "but do it very, very carefully so we don't get a lot of people killed." South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster is moving even faster, allowing some retail businesses to reopen as early as Tuesday, April 21. He is also allowing public beaches to reopen at the same time.

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On Monday, Kemp reportedly said that this should not be seen as a return to "business as usual," but only "a small step forward." However, he also said that he believes the crisis has leveled off enough to make these eased restrictions safe — a belief that is not shared by many medical experts at the Center for Disease Control or the World Health Organization. The White House coronavirus task force's Dr. Anthony Fauci has said that "there is still a long way to go" in battling the pandemic, and he was absent from Monday's press conference where the reopening of certain states was discussed. The federal recommendation for aggressive social distancing has been extended until the last week of May.

Experts have repeatedly warned that there is very little data on on coronavirus immunity, with no guarantee that even those who have survived it will do so again. Therefore, the only ways to reopen public spaces are either a vaccine, or near-constant antibody testing for those that go out. Neither is possible right now. Visit the websites of the CDC or the World Health Organization for the latest on the coronavirus pandemic.