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The Devil Went Down to the Governor’s Mansion in Georgia

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Amanda Mull has an excellent piece on how the primary effect of prematurely lifting stay-at-home orders is so put working class people and small business owners in an impossible situation:

Instead, their stories depict a struggle between a state government and ordinary people. Georgia’s brash reopening puts much of the state’s working class in an impossible bind: risk death at work, or risk ruining yourself financially at home. In the grips of a pandemic, the approach is a morbid experiment in just how far states can push their people. Georgians are now the largely unwilling canaries in an invisible coal mine, sent to find out just how many individuals need to lose their job or their life for a state to work through a plague.

Estimates vary as to how many businesses might actually reopen now, but none of the Georgians I talked with knew many people who intended to voluntarily head right back to work. That was true in Athens, which has long been one of the Deep South’s most progressive cities, as well as in Blackshear, a small town in the rural southeastern part of the state that tends toward conservatism. Kelly Girtz, the mayor of Athens, estimated that about 90 percent of the local business owners he had spoken with in the past week had no intention of reopening immediately. “Georgia’s plan simply is not that well designed,” Girtz says. “To call it a ‘plan’ might be overstating the case.”

[…]

Extensive protective gear is required in most types of reopened businesses, which was a sticking point for every Georgian I spoke with who was contemplating a return to work. They said the state is providing neither the gear itself nor guidance on how to get it, so they’re in the same market as everyone else, competing with medical workers and high-risk people who need masks to safely go to the grocery store. Lee said he doesn’t “feel comfortable buying up that stuff right now when there’s hospitals that are needing it and they can’t get it.” Dupree said that to secure the gear she needed to reopen, she had to ask clients and friends to volunteer their extras.

[….]

For restaurants, the decision to open up can be even more complicated. Profit margins in the food-service industry are already notoriously slim, and Georgia’s restaurants have been instructed to reduce their capacity by half to ensure distance between customers. Places like the Globe that rely on alcohol sales for most of their profits can’t meaningfully offset the loss with limited in-house service and takeout and delivery. “Our rent isn’t changing, but our capacity for our building is greatly reduced,” Canavaggio said. “Unless we start selling $400 beers, what do we have?” The Globe, he decided, will remain closed indefinitely.

This is just incredibly stupid policy-making with large downsides and little upside: this won’t come remotely close to rescuing the economy and it’s more question of how much rather than if infections and deaths will spike. Or, in other words, Republican governance.

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