Atlanta’s latest coronavirus updates: Wednesday, April 22

A quick roundup of what's happening in metro Atlanta and what you may have missed

Atlanta coronavirus updates
The Plaza Theatre on April 12. Owner Christopher Escobar is one of several Atlanta business owners who has said he will not re-open immediately.

Photograph by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

On Tuesday, Mayor Bottoms said she doesn’t agree with Governor Kemp’s decision to re-open businesses, while several Atlanta business owners announced they would not re-open right away. Here’s your Wednesday morning update:

• There are now 20,166 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Georgia, 767 more cases than yesterday morning. 818 people have died, 43 more than yesterday morning. 3,885 have been hospitalized. 88,140 tests have been conducted. [GA Dept. of Public Health]

• The AJC didn’t mince words with this headline: “As business restrictions ease, Georgians on their own to fight virus.” Across the state, politicians have made statements for or—mostly—against Governor Brian Kemp’s Monday executive order to re-open businesses as early as Friday. As the AJC points, out, the idea of Georgians, rather than the government, being responsible for their own virus prevention is something Kemp has brought up many times throughout the past month. When he issued the shelter-in-place order in early April, he said, “It is not going to be government that is going to solve the problem. It is the community at large.” Kemp has also said that the government “is not going to be the answer” for solving Georgia’s severe lack of COVID-19 testing, instead calling on the private sector to step up. But constituents look to the government to guide them through emergency situations. Thanks to mixed messaging—such as the shelter-in-place order overlapping with the re-opening of businesses—Georgians are confused. [AJC 1/AJC 2]

• Several people on Kemp’s coronavirus task force—including Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Bernice King—have said they didn’t know about the governor’s plans before he publicly announced them. [AJC]

Bottoms told WSB-TV’s Jovita Moore that she learned of Kemp’s plans to re-open businesses while “watching Channel 2 like the rest of Georgia.” She said she does not agree with the order and that she hasn’t seen the data the governor says he used to make the decision. “We still are not testing asymptomatic [people] and people with mild symptoms, so I still don’t think we have a clear picture of what our real numbers are. Our numbers are still going up.” She said she didn’t understand how businesses like hair and nail salons could properly social distance, and added, “But I do hope that I’m wrong and the governor is right, because if he’s wrong, more people can die.” [WSB-TV]

• Marietta Mayor Steve “Thunder” Tumlin fully backed Kemp’s direction, noting on Facebook that he would go to the gym and get his hair cut on Friday and planned to patronize Marietta restaurants for three meals a day starting next week. “Buy, hire, trade, and dine in Marietta. Godspeed,” he wrote. [AJC]

• Businesses owners are faced with several difficult decisions while weighing whether or not to re-open. Not only are they concerned with the health and safety of employees and customers, but they risk social media backlash if their clientele isn’t ready for them to re-open. Many don’t have the infrastructure and staffing to re-open quickly. At the same time, they are losing revenue, and some do have clients eager to return. The AJC talked to several salon and gym owners, most of whom say they will stay closed, and Eater Atlanta is rounding up the restaurants planning to stay closed on Monday. Among them: Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q, Ford Fry’s restaurants, Empire State South, Spring, Castellucci Hospitality Group restaurants (Iberian Pig, Recess, Double Zero, among others), Little Bear, Heirloom Market BBQ, and many more. [AJC/Eater Atlanta]

• Georgia’s House Democrats are calling on the governor to rescind the executive order. “Yesterday’s executive order is best summed up as too much, too soon,” the statement says, “Combined with the state’s well-documented struggles with testing capacity, this premature executive order puts Georgians at risk and may very well wind up resulting more prolonged restricted measures in the future.” [Twitter]

•The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus issued a statement on the executive order saying, “The idea of allowing barbershops, bars, bowling alleys, massage parlors and clubs to reopen in the midst of a pandemic without ensuring necessary testing and protection is incomprehensible. We cannot prioritize the economy of a few, over the safety of all people, because without people we have no economy.” The statement continued, “This virus has disproportionately impacted the lives of black and brown people. We cannot and will not stand silently by and watch the premature opening of businesses that are mostly in the African American communities.” [Facebook]

• 295 Georgians have now died in nursing homes and senior care facilities. [AJC]

• Most homeless Atlantans who are staying in shelters have been tested for COVID-19. 2,000 tests revealed 30 new cases in the shelters, with 55 total cases recorded in the homeless community. 3,200 Atlantans are estimated to be homeless. [WABE]

• Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale County Health Departments will host a massive drive-thru testing operation for symptomatic individuals at Infinite Energy Centre in Duluth today. No referral is needed but visitors are required to make an appointment. Call 770-513-5631 to schedule an appointment. [Gwinnett Daily Post]