Thursday, April 23, 2020 A rainy dreary Thursday in Atlanta

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Opening up a state that doesn’t want to open…yet

I am sure that you’ve heard the news. Brian Kemp, the governor of the great state of Georgia, one of the last to call for a statewide stay at home order, is now one of the very first to open up selected businesses to operation. And his selection is bizarre and telling. Specifically identified in his order: Massage and tattoo parlors, hair and nail salons, bowling alleys, and, starting Monday, movie theaters and restaurants. I can’t tell you how happy I am. I’ve been dying to get a tattoo, a haircut, polished nails and my muscles rubbed into jello. Actually, I wouldn’t mind a massage, but I don’t see the reward good enough for the risk right now. 

You would expect that the governor would confer with his very own handpicked task force of medical, governmental and civic leaders to get feedback on his plan, listen to their insights into the readiness for opening of businesses across the state and set target dates for such. 

He did not do that. He caught mayors from Atlanta to Savannah to Albany by surprise. His lack of communication shows that he determined his best path forward was to do what he wanted to do was to announce first, confer later. It was a surprise attack. That way cleared the way so that no other opinion or person could thwart his plan to move ahead. 

His plan does not adhere to the federal guidelines which call for a demonstrated two week decline in the rates of infection proven by abundant testing. The head of GA’s Department of Public Health, Kathleen Toomey, suggests that data will show a two week of continuing decline in our state’s case rate of infection by the end of the month. She’s reading data tea leaves projecting the future, not proving the present. And that was good enough for Kemp. 

The guidelines also call for a show of readiness to conduct proper testing of the citizenry to stay on top of the virus’s movement. As of Sunday, GA ranked 42nd in the number of test administered per capita. Forty-second!! It more than begs the question: How can we possibly know how we are doing? 

Certainly, opening restaurants affects a lot of people who have been out of work. We love to eat out. The question is, are you going to rush out to eat right now just because the governor has allowed them to open? He’s essentially put it in the businesses’ hands to determine if they are safe enough and if their workers are trained in safety measures and disciplined in their adhering to them. And, interestingly, many restaurateurs have come out and said they are NOT ready to open. They will have to invest in safety gear, training of staff to new procedures and cutting back on how many people they can serve.

I question how many people those targeted businesses really put back to work? And are those the key businesses that fuel GA’s economy? I tried Googling the tattoo business to see how many parlors there are, how many they employ and how many customers they turn a week but I have not found that info yet.  

Yet again, Governor Kemp makes national headlines for Georgia, the kind that continue to cement the backwardness, shortsightedness and generally dumb acts of governing that already pop into most of Americans’ minds when thinking of Georgia. First in the worst of things like health and healthcare. Among the last in the state rankings for important needs like Education…and, now, testing for COVID-19. 

The AJC wrote an editorial to this end titled, “To Gov. Kemp: Don’t add to risk.” Insightful. 

And, Mike Luckovich, the paper’s editorial cartoonist hit the nail on the head with his characterization of the snake from the “Don’t tread on me” flag now on respirator. Freedom at all costs can cost us freedom.

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Lessons learned from abroad

A report in ProPublica, a not-for-profit dedicated to investigative journalism, published this piece on what the US Governors can learn from other countries. It interviewed experts and frontline officials from Italy, Germany, Spain, Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea. While they differ on the details, their views formed a startlingly united consensus of what’s needed. The number one and two items on their list:. 

  • Massive, ongoing testing to detect where the disease is spreading
  • a real-time ability to trace contacts of those infected and isolate them

Not everything is bad news

This very interesting hack: One very positive outcome of this is how local whiskey distillers have turned to producing hand sanitizer. After all, one thing they do have on hand is alcohol. With bars and restaurants closed, so has a lot of consumption. Old Fourth Distillery (we buy their gin) is making and bottling the sanitizers at its own expense and giving to the homeless in Atlanta. 

Masked up and anonymous

We don’t get out much, but when we do, we go to our local butcher. The good news is that it has always been a very personal and low traffic shop. Three customers at one time was almost unheard of. In today’s precautionary time, we felt comfortable that it wouldn’t be crowded and certainly, as a food processing spot, it has always been as clean as a whistle. (Which is a weird saying now that I think about it. Since you blow through it. Hmmm.)

The guys at Heywoods Provisions know Julie by name. They know me by Julie’s name too. I am the quiet guy on the standby while Julie does the ordering. Then I do the carrying to the car. 

Last week the new info on wearing masks came out with the advice now being…wear the mask if you have one. You’re doing it for everyone else in the room. When it came time to hit the butcher shop, and with the new mask recommendation in place, Julie and I flipped a coin for who would go in. I won.

I put on the N95 mask from a packet that I bought last year for yard work and in I went. “Hello, sir,” said Kurt, being polite but with more formality than the normal familiarity. In other words, all masked up, he didn’t put my eyes to the face. Same with Patrick. I know these guys. Call them by name. Generally, they know me, if by greeting me with “How’s Miss Julie doing,” familiarity if I go there alone. 

My point is this. Faces matter in the world. And on this day, I was as good as anonymous. Kind of sad, the humanity of it all. 

Stay safe. Stay well. Stay out of tattoo, massage and beauty parlors, or anything that has “parlor” in its name. Keep reading the titles of the books that appear on the bookshelves behind the people on the news as they report from home. It’s fun. I will miss that when this is over.

OMG Breaking News last night: Trump asked Kemp to hold off opening up Georgia!! Kemp holds firm.

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