‘At the end of the day, people need to own personal responsibility and continue to do the right thing…’
Kemp, along with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, all Republicans, explained how their states are beginning to transition into the federal government’s reopening plan during a virtual press briefing on Monday.
Many of the regulations the states passed during the coronavirus shutdown—such as limits on large gatherings, business closures and social-distancing precautions—are still in place, but they are gradually being loosened, the governors said.
Iowa began to reopen a week ago, allowing hospitals to begin performing “nonessential” procedures once again and lifting some of the restrictions on restaurants and retail stores. Some businesses, however, will remain closed through May 15, Reynolds said, and social-distancing is still encouraged.
The goal is to protect the 20% of Iowans who are at risk—the elderly, and those with pre-existing conditions—while allowing the other 80% to get back to work in a safe and efficient manner, Reynolds explained.
“We’re not ripping the Band-Aid off,” she said. “Our continued messaging to Iowas is still the same; they need to be mindful of the coronavirus moving forward, and continued testing and tracing of the virus will allow us to manage it in a comprehensive manner.”
Georgia adopted an even more ambitious reopening plan and began allowing certain businesses—such as hair salons, tattoo parlors and bowling alleys—to reopen on April 24. Kemp was heavily criticized for his decision to begin the reopening process so early, but he defended the decision as the right one for Georgians.
The main goal of the shutdown was always to prevent the state’s healthcare system from being overrun, Kemp explained, and that goal has been largely achieved.
“Now, we do have really structured regulations and rules for businesses to begin reopening under social distancing practices,” Kemp said, citing the White House’s federal reopening guidance. And those regulations ensure that nursing homes and at-risk communities are protected, while also ensuring that widespread testing increases across the state.
“We’re continuing to dramatically ramp up testing,” Kemp said. “We had a record day of 20,000 tests a couple of days ago.”
Social-distancing regulations will continue to be enforced, but not in a “combative” manner, Kemp said.
“Our goal is to educate through enforcement, not just to write tickets,” he said. “But at the end of the day, people need to own personal responsibility and continue to do the right thing. We’re buckling in for the long haul, but we also realize that when you shut the economy down there are social as well as physical ramifications.”
Oklahoma also began reopening on April 24, allowing businesses such as hair salons and pet groomers to resume operations, followed by churches and movie theaters on May 1. Stitt said introducing the reopening plan before May allowed a healthy debate to take place among state officials.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be a light switch, but we also knew that it was time to begin the process,” he said. “So what that early reopening did is it got the conversation going.”
Many of his left-wing gubernatorial counterparts seem to have a political and financial interest in exerting an overabundance of precaution. That allows them to continue demanding federal emergency funds to help defray their own reckless spending, while bashing the ‘reckless’ GOP leaders for lacking empathy.
However, it is increasingly clear that the once-projected crisis levels in most areas are a far cry from the early projections.
Stitt acknowledged that the backlash from the Left’s media allies was inevitable, regardless of when the re-opening occurred.
“You’re always going to have a debate of ‘is it too late is it too early?'” he said. “So we got that debate going, and then we were able to kick Phase 1 into gear by May 1.”
Stitt said that his two goals from the beginning of the virus’s outbreak were to “protect the lives of Oklahomans” and “mitigate the impact to Oklahoma’s economy.”
The initial shutdown helped achieve that first goal, he said, and now the reopening plan will help the state’s economy recover.