In a dramatic reversal, Trump announced yesterday that he opposed Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s order to open businesses in his state, even though the state has not met Trump administration criteria for bringing commercial activity back online.
Trump’s advocacy for early reopening helped spur protests by armed tea party-type groups targeting Democratic governors across the country. Trump’s reversal comes at the same time a new AP-NORC poll found that just 12 percent of Americans favor early reopening, while 87 percent disapprove, among whom 26 percent say restrictions don’t go far enough and 61 percent say the lockdown rules are about right.
Kemp announced the order to reopen on Monday. Under the order, gyms and fitness centers, barbers, hair dressers, nail salons and massage therapists were allowed to resume business but were required to maintain physical distancing. No guidance was offered on how barbers, hair stylists, manicurists and masseuses could do their work will standing six feet apart from their clients. Earlier this month, Kemp reopened beaches in Georgia, many of which are dependent on tourism revenue.
At his daily news conference yesterday, Trump said he’d changed his mind on early reopening:
I told the governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp that I disagree agree strongly with his decision to open certain facilities which are in violation of the phase I guidelines for the incredible people of Georgia. They are incredible people. I love those people. They are great. They have been strong, resolute but at the same time, he must do what he thinks is right.
I want him to do what he thinks is right but I disagree with him on what he is doing but I want to let the governors do… now if I see something totally egregious, totally out of line I will do it but I think spas and beauty salons and tattoo parlors and barbershops in phase 1. We’re going to have phase 2 very soon is just too soon. I think it’s too soon and I love the people. I love those people that use all of those things the spas in the beauty parlors and barbershops, tattoo parlors. I love them but they can wait a little bit longer, just a little bit, not much because safety has to predominate. We have to have that. So I told the governor very simply that I disagree with his decision but he has to do what he thinks is right.
It’s likely that Trump not only saw the polls shifting decidedly against him but had also come to realize that when the death tolls rise in Georgia in late May and early June he would take the blame.
Now the blood will be on Kemp’s hands, not Trump’s.