Bars and night clubs around Georgia can reopen beginning Monday, June 1, after being closed for roughly two months amid the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Brian Kemp announced Thursday.
Bars and night clubs will have to meet 39 mandatory measures in order to reopen — including limiting occupancy to 25 people or 35 percent of capacity, requiring regular sanitation and screening all employees who come to work. In addition, patrons can only be served in seating or designated areas, party sizes have to be limited to six people and workers are required to keep people from congregating.
Also, amusement parks can reopen starting June 12 if they meet a long list of criteria. Live performance venues will remain closed for the time-being.
Kemp also extended the allowable size of public gatherings from 10 to 25 people as long as six feet of space between each person is maintained.
Kemp announced his latest rollback of restrictions during a press conference at the state Capitol in Atlanta as the state continues attempts to revive a battered economy.
He did, though, extend the statewide public health emergency declaration through July 12 and is still requiring the state's elderly and medically-fragile residents to "shelter in place" until then with the exception of attending medical appointments, obtaining food and groceries and carrying out other essential activities.
Kemp and other state officials have touted declining hospitalizations as an optimistic sign that Georgia has seen the worst of the coronavirus from a public health standpoint and reason to continue easing restrictions, even as the state has seen a recent spike in new cases.
Kemp on Thursday afternoon downplayed the latest increase as the result of a dump of backlogged data by the Georgia Department of Public Health, and he continued to point to Georgia's strong boost in testing as the result of increased numbers. But Emory University professor Dr. Carlos Del Rio, a leading public health expert in the state, said earlier Thursday that the increase is at least in part the result of more community transmission as Georgians have begun moving more freely about as May has progressed.
"Nothing we're seeing in the data alarms us," Kemp said. "Otherwise, I wouldn't have made these moves."
According to the latest DPH figures released at 1 p.m. Thursday, there had 45,070 confirmed cases and 1,962 confirmed deaths in Georgia. Those numbers included 320 cases and 13 deaths in Barrow County, though there is a lag in the data of up to two weeks.
The DPH has been updating its numbers three times daily for the past couple of weeks — 9 a.m., 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. — but will switch to one-time daily updates (3 p.m.) next week in an attempt to provide more accurate, real-time data, Kemp said.
Continue to check barrownewsjournal.com for the latest local and statewide updates related to the coronavirus pandemic.