Bars and nightclubs will be allowed to reopen with safety restrictions on June 1, Gov. Brian Kemp said in a Thursday press conference. The state of emergency is extended through July 12, and the shelter-in-place order for those over 65 years old will continue through June 12. Live performance venues remain closed.
To reopen, bars have to comply with 39 mandatory safety measures, including limiting the number of people to 25 people or 35% of the building’s capacity, limiting party size to six people and screening workers for symptoms of illness, Kemp said.
Kemp also increased the number of people that can be together in one place from 10 to 25. Gatherings of over 25 people are permitted on June 1, as long as there is proper social distancing, Kemp said.
The reopening comes as some experts question whether the virus’s spread has slowed. There was a 26% increase in COVID-19 cases in Georgia between May 11 and May 18, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In his briefing, Kemp attributed this increase to increased reports of testing.
According to the AJC, Dr. Carlos del Rio, chairman of the global health department at Emory University and the dean overseeing physicians at Grady Memorial Hospital, attributes this spike to both an increase in testing and the partial end of the statewide shelter-in-place order.
There are 270 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Clarke County as of Thursday at 7 p.m., according to the Georgia Department of Public Health website.
Kemp signed an executive order on Thursday to extend safety precautions and outline guidance for summer camps and schools. The order outlines rules for reopening amusement parks and allowing sports teams to practice.
Professional sports teams may engage in practices, or other in-person operations on June 1, as long as they follow the rules and guidelines put forth by their respective leagues. Kemp said he does not know what games will look like at this point, as they are focusing on operations within the leagues.
All amateur sports teams that continue operations must follow the guidelines for non-critical infrastructure organizations, Kemp said. Some of these requirements include screening and evaluating workers who show signs of symptoms, enforcing social distancing of people who don’t live together and disinfecting common surfaces regularly, according to the state website.
Amusement parks, water parks, carnivals and circuses can begin operation on June 12, Kemp said. In order to open, they must comply with 33 mandatory requirements in addition to the requirements for non-critical infrastructure businesses.
Overnight summer camps are permitted to open on May 31 if they meet 33 specific criteria for reopening along with the requirements for opening a noncritical infrastructure business, Kemp said. School districts may also open for summer school in June if they comply with the 11 mandatory criteria, including screening workers and students for illness and enhancing campus sanitation, Kemp said.
Law enforcement has been giving people verbal warnings to help people and businesses comply with the guidelines, but if there are crowds of people that are “out of control,” law enforcement will take much stronger action, Kemp said. A group of people was issued citations for violating the statewide shelter-in-place order in Athens-Clarke County on April 16.
This week, the DPH will distribute over 18,000 vials of remdesivir, a medication used to shorten the recovery time from COVID-19, to 85 hospitals across Georgia, Kemp said.
Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center has received shipments of the drug from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the DPH, Michael Burnett, CEO of Piedmont Athens Regional, said in an email Wednesday.
Kemp said he encourages use of face coverings in public and compliance with social distancing to mitigate spread of the coronavirus.