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In a head-turning moment at Wednesday’s coronavirus briefing, President Trump told reporters that he “disagrees strongly” with Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s plan to reopen some businesses in his state, including gyms, barbershops and nail salons, on Friday.
The president reiterated that his administration has established benchmarks that states should clear before they begin the reopening process. The rules recommend 14 days of declining new infections, as well as 14 days of decling covid-like syndromic cases and influenza-like illnesses, before moving to the reopening phase Kemp has called for.
“I told the governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, that I disagree strongly with his decision to open certain facilities which are in violation of the Phase I guidelines for the incredible people of Georgia,” Trump said.
“At the same time, he must do what he thinks is right,” Trump continued. “But I disagree with him on what he’s doing.”
Later at the briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). said he would “advise” Kemp not to “leapfrog” the White House’s guidelines.
“I would advise him not to just turn the switch on and go,” Fauci said. “Because there is a danger of a rebound.”
Also on Friday, elective medical procedures are slated to be allowed in Georgia. Limited in-restaurant dining will resume Monday. All businesses will be expected to comply with some new restrictions on social distancing.
The president went on to state that Kemp’s move wasn’t “totally egregious,” and implied that he would take action if any governor took a clearly unreasonable step.
After Trump’s remarks, Kemp showed no sign of backing down, writing on Twitter that he was “confident that business owners who decide to reopen will adhere to Minimum Basic Operations, which prioritize the health and well-being of employees and customers.”
Kemp’s supporters note that Sweden, which has not enacted any draconian lockdowns, hasn’t experienced an overwhelming pandemic. And, a USC study has tentatively found that the coronavirus may be far less deadly than previously believed.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp listens to a speaker during a tour of a massive temporary hospital at the Georgia World Congress Center on Thursday, April 16, 2020, in Atlanta. Kemp took part in a tour of the 200-bed facility, constructed quickly in the lower levels of the Georgia World Congress Center which normally plays host to large conventions and sporting events. (AP Photo/Ron Harris, Pool)
On Tuesday, Kemp defended his timeline in an interview with Fox News.
“We are taking a measured step,” Kemp told “The Story” Tuesday. “I would urge people to really look at the guidance that we are going to be putting out the rest of the week.”
“There are a lot of people that are hurting really bad right now on the financial end of things — our hard-working Georgians. And we’re trying to do all we can to allow them to start moving back into the work force in a limited and safe way,” Kemp added.
Georgia has ranked in the bottom 10 per capita in testing. After expanding capacity, the number of tests administered in Georgia had plateaued between 3,500 to 4,000 a day. However, on Wednesday, the state reported almost 6,000 tests over 24 hours, with Kemp saying on a conference call that Georgia was “really ramping up” its capacity.
Those tests Wednesday show Georgia with nearly 21,000 infections and 836 deaths, according to the state Department of Public Health.
Separately at Wednesday’s briefing, Trump brought Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield to the podium to clarify a statement he made saying that a second wave of the coronavirus this winter could actually be worse than the one.
Redfield, who made his original comment to the Washington Post, said that while he was not misquoted by the newspaper, he did feel the need to clarify his comment.
“I didn’t say it was going to be worse, I said it would be more difficult,” Redfield said. “The issue I was talking about was that it will be more difficult in that we will have two viruses circulating at one time.”
Fox News’ Yael Halon and Andrew O’Reilly, as well as The Associated Press contributed to this report.