As Gov. Brian Kemp eases coronavirus restrictions, LGBTQ-owned businesses – many located in the City of Atlanta – face this troubling statistic: Atlanta is home to nearly half the COVID-19 cases in Fulton County.
The city has the highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths among the 13 cities in the county and Fulton leads the state in overall coronavirus numbers. Some 1,154 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Atlanta, which is 46.8 percent of the cases in Fulton, according to an epidemiology report released on Friday by the Fulton County Board of Health.
The number of cases in Atlanta nearly matches the city’s percentage of the county population, which at 498,044 is about 48 percent of Fulton’s 1,038,884 people. But the city being a hotspot for coronavirus highlights the tough decisions LGBTQ business owners face now that Kemp has allowed non-essential businesses to reopen.
On Monday, Kemp (photo) defended his decision in the wake of a barrage of criticism over allowing gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, barbers, cosmetologists, hair designers, nail care artists, estheticians and massage therapists to reopen. On Monday, restaurants were allowed to reopen their dining rooms.
"For weeks now, my team has worked closely with the Trump Administration and our federal counterparts to mitigate the impact of coronavirus in Georgia,” Kemp said during a press conference on Monday.
“Our decisions and direction are informed by data and public health recommendations, and we remain focused on protecting the lives – and livelihoods – of all Georgians,” he added.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms criticized Kemp’s decision to allow non-essential businesses to reopen.
“We are not in a position yet in which we need to begin opening businesses in our city,” Bottoms said during a conference call with the city council on Thursday.
Bottoms was more pointed in her criticism of Kemp’s decision in media interviews.
"As I look at people standing in line for haircuts and to get their nails done, what we are essentially saying in Georgia is, 'Go bowling, and we'll have a [hospital] bed waiting on you.' That's not what our approach should be to COVID-19,” Bottoms told CNN on Monday.
Among all coronavirus cases in Fulton, nearly 82 percent of people reported having symptoms of COVID-19, some 34 percent were hospitalized and about 10 percent were admitted to Intensive Care Units, according to the report. About five percent required assisted ventilation.
The report is the first public indication of the distribution of coronavirus cases across the county. The Georgia Department of Public Health provides a daily status report on the cases, but the numbers are reported by county totals only.
The five LGBTQ lawmakers in the Georgia House have also criticized Kemp’s easing of coronavirus restrictions, and LGBTQ business owners are struggling to reopen, caught between trying to salvage revenue and keep employees and customers safe.
“I’ve got a lot of members that are training in the back parking lot,” Rad Slough, owner of Urban Body Fitness, told Project Q Atlanta on Friday. “They want to come into the gym.”