Civil rights leaders are speaking out against Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s order to reopen Georgia’s economy and urging people to stay home.
The governor announced Monday a new order to lift coronavirus restrictions that will allow hair salons, bowling alleys, gyms, and tattoo parlors in the Peach State to open for business starting April 24. By next week, restaurants can begin to resume some in-house dining services and movie theaters will be allowed to start showing films. Under the order, all open businesses will be required to have employees wear masks and gloves, test the temperature of workers, and practice social distancing.
In response, Stacey Abrams deemed the governor as “dangerously incompetent” in a tweet on Monday, pointing out that Georgia has nearly 19,000 confirmed cases and 733 related deaths. Since then, the novel coronavirus has killed nearly 900 residents and sickened more than 22,000 others in the state, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Now, a national group of black faith and civil rights leaders are encouraging communities to avoid shopping and recreational activities in Georgia and other states where stay-at-home orders are being lifted.
“The actions of these governors, which demonstrate reckless disregard for the health and life of black residents, compel us to speak out and take action to protect ourselves,” reads a letter sent to BLACK ENTERPRISE signed by Rev. Al Sharpton; NAACP, LDF president Sherrilyn Ifill; NUL President Marc Morial; NAACP president Derrick Johnson; and National Coalition on Black Civic Participation President Melanie Campbell among others. “We regard this pandemic as a grave threat to the health and life of our people, and as a threat to the integrity and vitality of the communities we are privileged to serve.”
The letter goes on to stress black businesses and black churches to remain closed, highlighting the alarming rate at which African Americans are being infected and dying from COVID-19. In Georgia, black people account for 54% of COVID-19 although they make up just 30% of the state’s population. Meanwhile, Albany, a predominantly black city of 75,000 in southwest Georgia, has experienced the fourth worst coronavirus outbreak in the country.
“This pandemic has ravaged black communities in both urban and rural areas. The CDC reports that black people constitute 20% of all U.S. coronavirus deaths, although we are only 12% of the U.S. population. Across the country, we see the same disproportionate impact. Our families need us. Our communities need us. We must continue to telework wherever possible, and to tele-worship for however long it is necessary to do so,” reads the statement.
“Opening too soon also threatens our financial future. As church leaders and business owners, we must take responsibility for helping to protect the health of our parishioners and patrons – the very people with whom we must work in the coming months to rebuild the economic strength of our communities.”