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'Too soon': Trump, Collins join black pastors in criticizing Georgia gov.’s decision to reopen Friday

'Too soon': Trump, Collins join black pastors in criticizing Georgia gov.’s decision to reopen Friday

President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence, addresses his remarks at a coronavirus update briefing Wednesday, April 22, 2020, in the James S. Brady White House Press Briefing Room of the White House. | Official White House Photo/D. Myles Cullen

President Donald Trump and GOP Congressman Doug Collins has joined several black pastors and others in criticizing as “too soon” Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s decision to begin reopening businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic on Friday.

“I want him to do what he thinks is right, but I disagree with him on what he is doing. I think it’s too soon,” Trump said at a White House briefing Wednesday.

“I think spas and beauty salons, and tattoo parlors and barbershops in phase one, you’re going to have phase two very soon, is just too soon. I think it’s too soon,” said Trump after noting that he called Kemp and personally expressed his disagreement.

Kemp acknowledged his conversation with Trump in a series of tweets on Wednesday but stood by his decision.

“Earlier today, I discussed Georgia's plan to reopen shuttered businesses for limited operations with @POTUS. I appreciate his bold leadership and insight during these difficult times and the framework provided by the White House to safely move states forward,” he began.

“Our next measured step is driven by data and guided by state public health officials. We will continue with this approach to protect the lives - and livelihoods - of all Georgians. Just like the thousands of businesses currently operating throughout Georgia, I am confident that business owners who decide to reopen will adhere to Minimum Basic Operations, which prioritize the health and well-being of employees and customers,” he said.

He further directed people with questions about his executive order to review it in a post online.

Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., speaks at the Law, Order, and Smart Justice Forum hosted by the U.S. Justice Action Network and the Coalition for Public Safety in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 6, 2016. | (Photo: Nathan Mitchell)

Collins told "Fox & Friends" Thursday morning that he agrees with President Trump that Kemp was reopening businesses too soon.

"The president wants the country open. I want the country open. The governor wants the country open. The problem is how do you do it? And I think that's the problem with leadership," Collins said.

"Leadership is about communicating, and when you are not communicating clearly — look, the governor did not take away the stay-at-home order, but yet selectively decided certain businesses are going to open up,” he continued.

“I’ll tell you this, my concern was not having the local input into that because up in my area which is just north of Atlanta, we’re having an increase in cases. And my local hospital they’re seeing a rapid increase, so it is depending on the spot that’s where I think locals needed to have more input and it’s made people nervous. I think clear communication is what has to happen but when you’re telling people to still stay at home but yet we’re going to open certain businesses, that creates a problem in which people are not sure what to do,” he said.

On Monday, Kemp announced plans to begin reopening some businesses across the state as early as Friday with specific guidelines. Among the businesses that can begin reopening on Friday are fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, barber shops, cosmetologists, hair designers, nail care artists, their respective schools and massage therapists.

The announcement came days after the White House Coronavirus Task Force meeting a week ago where President Trump released a three-phase plan to start reopening the economy and allow people to go back to work. 

As part of his plan to reopen Georgia, Kemp’s office further noted that minimum basic operations include but are not limited to screening workers for fever and respiratory illness, enhancing workplace sanitation, wearing masks and gloves, separating workplaces by six feet, teleworking if possible and staggered shifts.

Theaters, private social clubs and dine-in services at restaurants will be allowed to reopen on April 27 with specific social distancing guidelines and sanitation mandates. Bars, nightclubs, amusement parks and live performance venues, however, will remain closed.

Kemp’s decision quickly drew both surprise and rebuke from a number of the state’s mayors and religious leaders, including well-known black pastors like Pastor Jamal Bryant of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Stonecrest, Georgia.

“Gov. [Brian] Kemp, if you have a decibel of moral integrity, before Friday comes, I am pleading on your conscience, even when the evangelicals remain silent in this hour, I stand and cry loud and spare not, that what it is you are calling for is contrary to the will of God who declared openly ‘I came that you might have life and have it more abundantly,’” Bryant said in a Facebook Live broadcast Tuesday night.

“I am calling on Governor Kemp to immediately reverse and retract his order that is supposed to start on Friday. What it is that he is doing is launching, in no uncertain terms, an assault on the minority community in Georgia.”

Bryant also pointed out that Bernice King, CEO of The King Center in Atlanta and daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., who is a member of Kemp's Coronavirus Task Force, along with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms were both blindsided by the governor’s decision.

Reacting to Trump’s agreement that Kemp’s move to reopen certain businesses in the state is too soon, Bryant quipped that “God is coming soon.”

“God is coming soon if the president and I are on the same page! @govkemp is making a mistake opening #georgia at the height of #covid19 He consulted neither black woman on the committee @berniceaking @keishabottoms and consulted neither before announcement. Bombard all his social media platforms and urge him to reverse decision! We can’t afford to be silent while our community unnecessarily dies,” Bryant said in a statement on Facebook.

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