LGBTQ lawmakers denounce Kemp’s coronavirus order as reckless

LGBTQ state lawmakers condemned Gov. Brian Kemp’s order reopening non-essential businesses, saying it risks people’s lives and urging the governor to rescind the decision.

Kemp eased coronavirus restrictions across the state and allowed a slate of businesses – gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, barbers, cosmetologists, hair designers, nail care artists, estheticians and massage therapists – to open on Friday. The five LGBTQ members of the Georgia House said it’s too early.

“I do have concerns if we open too soon without knowing where this virus is, that we are going to a see a resurgence and infections and hospitalizations and deaths and then have to shut down again,” state Rep. Sam Park said. 

“That would exacerbate the economic harm that this pandemic is causing,” he added.

State Rep. Park Cannon said the continued rise in confirmed coronavirus cases across the state demonstrates that Kemp’s order is premature.

“It is a dangerous misunderstanding of the science for state leaders to turn their backs on the progress that we all want to see our state make as it relates to COVID-19,” Cannon said.

“The science does not support reopening the state of Georgia and we all know that,” she added.

State Rep. Renitta Shannon said the businesses Kemp is allowing to reopen provide services that make it impossible to follow guidelines about physical distancing.

“Exactly how do you get a haircut/massage/tattoo while keeping the provider six feet away from you? None of these are essential services and it’s not good enough to say well if you don’t feel safe don’t go, because the continued spread of COVID-19 affects us all and has public health consequences,” Shannon wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday.

State Rep. Matthew Wilson said Kemp’s order makes Georgia an outlier among states in its response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Public health officials across the state are denouncing the plan to reopen as reckless,” Wilson wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday. 

“I am very concerned that Gov. Kemp’s actions will put Georgians’ lives at risk unnecessarily. I am also concerned about those Georgians who will be forced to go back to work by their employers before it is safe to do so,” he added.

'Do not forget this deadly virus'

State Rep. Karla Drenner said she disagreed with Kemp’s order and urged people to continue to shelter at home.

“It is imperative that we do not relax or forget that this deadly virus is freely circulating amongst us,” Drenner said Thursday during a press briefing with the Georgia House Democratic Caucus.

The five LGBTQ lawmakers – all Democrats – criticized Kemp in March for not taking more urgent steps to fight coronavirus. On Tuesday, they joined with other House Democrats in demanding that Kemp (second photo) rescind his order easing coronavirus restrictions. Kemp’s measure also allows restaurants to reopen dining rooms as early as Monday.

Park said the state needs widespread testing for COVID-19 before allowing non-essential businesses to reopen. Without that, employees face a tough decision – risking their health by returning to work or facing the continuing economic consequences of being unemployed. 

“What is the plan for mass testing? What is the plan to go on the offensive and keep this from killing Georgians,” Park said. “It is a failure in leadership in forcing working families to have to make that choice. We can do better.”

Drenner called on businesses and local municipalities to help “chart a safe path forward for all of our communities.”

“Stay home if you can. And when you got out, if you must, think about not only yourself but those that you come in contact with,” Drenner said.

“It is up to us individually to understand the risk and to exercise social distancing, to wear a mask and gloves and to take our own temperatures,” she added.

Park said he’s encouraged by businesses refusing Kemp’s call to reopen.

“I am heartened by the fact that I’ve seen a lot of businesses that say we’re not going to open up and we are going to stay safe,” he said.

Read more coverage of how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting LGBTQ Atlanta.

Top Photo (left to right): State Reps. Matthew Wilson, Renitta Shannon, Karla Drenner, Park Cannon and Sam Park