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Media Criticism of Governor Kemp for Reopening Georgia Is Dishonest and Hypocritical 

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (Michael Holahan/The Augusta Chronicle via AP)

Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia has been taking hits from the media since his announcement that the state would begin to reopen shuttered businesses. The criticism has compounded since President Trump said that he disagreed with small portions of Kemp’s order during yesterday’s press briefing. The president was responding to dishonest and hysterical media criticism of the Georgia governor’s plan.

It is even more outrageous to watch the press completely disregard the specific guidance in Kemp’s order. Then you can add blatant hypocrisy of the coverage when you review the announcement from Colorado’s Democrat governor, Jared Polis. It is infuriating.

According to the Denver Post, Governor Polis has given his plan a catchy name, Safer at Home. Maybe that is the difference. However, the fundamentals are pretty similar, right down to tattoo parlors.

“Personal service providers and elective medical providers, including hair salons, dental offices and tattoo shops, will be able to reopen with some precautions on April 27, such as hair stylists wearing masks. One-on-one real estate showings — though not open houses — and childcare can restart then, too,” Polis said.

Kemp’s order for similar businesses, which caused a media firestorm, begins April 24. The Georgia governor was also clear in his announcement:

“The entities that I am reopening are not reopening for ‘business as usual,'” Kemp said. “Each of these entities will be subject to specific restrictions, including adherence to Minimum Basic Operations, social distancing, and regular sanitation. Minimum Basic Operations includes, but is not limited to, screening workers for fever and respiratory illness, enhancing workplace sanitation, wearing masks and gloves if appropriate, separating workspaces by at least six feet, teleworking where at all possible, and implementing staggered shifts.”

Minimum Basic Operations are spelled out for small business owners clearly on the state’s website. The guidance for businesses that are reopening must fulfill 20 requirements as they apply to specific businesses. This covers everything from enforced social distancing and personal protective equipment, continued encouragement of telework where possible, and how to manage transactions that require a PIN number.

There are some differences in the orders. For example, Kemp did not open childcare centers, the vast majority of which closed voluntarily, and were limited to 10 children. Polis is delaying restaurant openings. Which do you think is a bigger Petri dish of potential infections? A childcare center or a restaurant with enforced social distancing and sanitation protocols? Any parent who sends a child to daycare will likely tell you it’s the former.

Yet no overzealous member of the White House Press Corps asked President Trump what he thought of Governor Polis’ order. This is despite the fact that Phase 1 Guidelines from the White House specifically say: “SCHOOLS AND ORGANIZED YOUTH ACTIVITIES (e.g., daycare, camp) that are currently closed should remain closed.”

Meanwhile, the same guidelines state that large venues such as gyms, sit-down dining and movie theaters can open in Phase 1 under strict physical distancing and sanitation protocols. Governor Kemp has clearly articulated how these businesses need to operate and applied them to personal service businesses, such as hair salons and tattoo parlors. He has taken endless media criticism for this.

The same personal service businesses are able to open in Colorado three days after they are permitted to in Georgia. Yet I bet most Americans have never heard Governor Polis’ name let alone any significant criticism of his plan.

Frankly, neither governor should be under any particular scrutiny for their orders. They are all building the plane while flying it. Both states have met Phase 1 criteria for decreasing the number of new cases. They are relying on health officials within the state to guide their efforts. According to John Hopkins COVID-19 monitoring, both have had about 2% of their population test positive for the virus through April 23 and have plans in place to keep their experience under control.

Most important, neither requires forced reopenings. It is up to individual business owners to weigh the costs of opening in compliance with the guidelines against the benefits of reopening in a limited fashion. As a resident of Georgia, I can attest that my gym has opted not to reopen at this time. The salon I frequent is also taking an extra week to come into compliance.

The only glaring difference moving forward will be how the experience in these two states will be covered as they slowly start to reopen. Every new case and every death in Georgia will be posited as proof positive Republicans are careless and only care about the economy. Specifically, they will point to Governor Kemp as incompetent and Georgians as deplorable red-state voters. It is highly likely Colorado will only be covered as a success. As a model of liberal state governance. Even if the experience on the ground tells a different story.

This is why criticism of Governor Kemp from the president and Republicans like Senator Lindsey Graham based on blatant bias in the media coverage is so disheartening. If the media coverage had been remotely factual, these leaders could have provided perspective and valid comparisons. Governor Kemp is not unusual or alone in the guidance he has put forth. However, he will clearly be standing alone to face media criticism as Georgia moves forward thanks to fact-free coverage from the major outlets.

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