A group of six southern Republican governors are coordinating the reopening of their states’ economies even as some health experts argue they have not reached the testing capacity required to do so safely.
Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee plan to reopen businesses in the coming days, although details about the restarting process are not yet clear.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis confirmed the plan Tuesday during an appearance on Fox News.
“We have had a meeting with all the Southeastern governors — Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and Tennessee,” DeSantis said. “And we shared a lot of ideas. I think we will be the same page on some stuff.”
DeSantis’s communications director Helen Aguirre Ferré confirmed the “coalition” in a tweet, saying Florida is working with the five other states “to safely re-open as well as working regionally within Florida to make sure we thread the needle properly.”
“Governor Ron DeSantis did not find it necessary to impose ‘draconian’ restrictions to prepare Florida for a safe, phased-in approach to help communities and businesses re-open,” she added in a later tweet.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp announced Monday that state’s “stay at home order” would be lifted on April 30, sparking criticism from local mayors. Georgia will allow gyms, bowling alleys, hair and nail salons, and massage therapists to reopen as soon as Friday, provided they follow health requirements and social distancing measures. Restaurants will be allowed to reopen with restrictions next Monday, although bars will remain closed until further notice.
The governor admitted cases of the virus will likely see an uptick as businesses are allowed to reopen across the state.
“These are tough decisions, no doubt. And I will have to make more of them,” Kemp said.
As of Wednesday morning, Florida has seen nearly 28,000 cases of the coronavirus and at least 866 people have died. Georgia meanwhile has seen more than 19,000 cases and at least 810 deaths.
Governor Bill Lee of Tennessee said on Monday that the state’s stay at home order will be allowed to expire on April 30 and most businesses will be permitted to reopen on May 1. In South Carolina, many businesses received the green light to reopen on Tuesday.
Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves said his state plans to ease restrictions on some businesses next Monday, and Alabama plans to allow restaurants and some businesses to reopen after the state’s stay at home order expires at the end of the month.
The push among southern states to reopen comes after the Trump administration released guidelines last week for states looking to restart their economies.
“Some states will open sooner than others,” Trump said. “Some states are not in the kind of trouble that others are in. Now that we have passed the peak in new cases, we’re starting our life again. We’re starting rejuvenation of our economy again in a safe and structured and very responsible fashion.”