3 states reopen in part, despite warnings from health authorities

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SAVANNAH, Ga. – As the coronavirus-confirmed death toll in the United States has soared to more than 50,000, Georgia, Oklahoma and Alaska began easing foreclosure orders on their businesses on Friday injured by a pandemic, despite warnings from health experts that gradual steps toward normalcy may occur. too early.

Republican governors of Georgia and Oklahoma have authorized the reopening of salons, spas, and hair salons, while Alaska has paved the way for restaurants, retail stores, and other businesses to open their doors. , all with limitations. Some Alaska municipalities have chosen to maintain more stringent rules.

Although limited in scope and subject to social distancing restrictions, the reopenings marked a symbolic milestone in the heated debate in the United States – and around the world – about how quickly political leaders should lift orders economic blockage.

Similar scenarios have taken place around the world and will soon proliferate in the United States as other governors grapple with conflicting priorities. Their economies have been hit by weeks of job losses fueled by quarantine and soaring jobless claims, but health officials are warning that the lifting of home support orders could trigger a resurgence of COVID-19.

President Donald Trump spoke optimistically about the economy at a press briefing in the White House on Friday, but also asked people to continue to distance themselves from society and use face covers.

The coronavirus has killed more than 190,000 people worldwide, including – Friday – more than 50,000 in the United States, according to a count by John Hopkins University based on government figures. The actual death toll would be much higher.

In Oklahoma, Governor Kevin Stitt has authorized the opening of personal care businesses, citing a drop in the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19. These companies had to maintain social distance, demand masks and frequently disinfect equipment. Still, some of the state’s largest cities, including Norman, Oklahoma City and Tulsa, have chosen to keep their ban in place until at least the end of April.

Amy Pembrook and her husband Mike reopened their hair salon in the city of Fairview in northwest Oklahoma after shutting down for about a month.

“We’re very excited to go back, but we’ve caught a little flak of people who say it’s too early,” said Amy Pembrook. “We just said that we can live in fear for a long time or we can trust that everything is going to be fine. “

As deaths and infections continue to increase in Georgia, many business owners plan to remain closed despite Governor Brian Kemp’s assurances that hospital visits and new cases have leveled enough for barbers, tattoo artists, massage therapists and personal trainers to return to work with restrictions.

Kemp’s timetable for restarting the economy has turned out to be too ambitious even for Trump, who has said he does not agree with the Republican colleague’s plan.

Trump signed a $ 484 billion bill on Friday to help employers and hospitals under the stress of the pandemic – the latest federal effort to help keep businesses afloat. In the past five weeks, about 26 million people have applied for unemployment assistance, or about 1 in 6 American workers.

Without a proven course of action to get countries out of the coronavirus lockdown, the world is experiencing a patchwork of approaches. Schools reopen in one country, remain closed in others; face masks are mandatory in some places, a recommendation elsewhere.

In Georgia, David Huynh had 60 clients booked for appointments in his nail salon in Savannah, but a clothing store, a jewelry store and a chocolatier who share a street corner with his downtown business, Envy Nail Bar , remained closed.

“The phone rang …,” says Huynh. “We have probably received hundreds of calls in the past hour. “

Four women wearing face masks were waiting outside when the show opened for the first time since March 26.

“Yes, I’m ready to have my nails repaired,” said Alina Davis, a local school system police officer, who continued to work throughout the crisis.

Meanwhile, Nikki Thomas is late for a visit to her hairdresser, but she has barely ventured outside of her house in the six weeks since she started working from home. She had no plans to change that now just because of Kemp’s decision.

“It is obviously extremely stupid and I am simultaneously exhausted and so angry that I can barely see straight,” said Thomas, 40, in a telephone interview.

The gradual reopening comes as coronavirus testing continues to lag in the United States. To date, according to data compiled by the COVID Tracking Project, just under 4.7 million people have been tested in the country of 330 million people.

A lack of tests and supplies has hampered U.S. efforts from the start. About 193,000 people were tested on Thursday. This is an increase from the daily average of 163,000 days over two weeks, but much less than what public health experts believe is necessary to control the virus. Researchers at Harvard University have estimated that a minimum of 500,000 daily tests are needed, and possibly much more, to reopen the economy safely.

In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis said his administration plans to let pharmacists administer tests for the virus to a wider range of people, including those who have no symptoms and who believe they have been exposed.

In Michigan, Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer extended his home stay order until May 15, while lifting restrictions so that some businesses can reopen and the public can participate in outdoor activities such as golf and motorized pleasure boating.

Michigan has nearly 3,000 COVID-19 deaths, behind only New York and New Jersey. New York reported its lowest number of COVID-19 deaths per day on Friday. The state had 422 deaths the day before – the least since March 31, when it recorded 391 deaths. More than 16,000 people have died in the state as a result of the epidemic.

In Denver, Mayor Michael Hancock extended home stay orders and non-essential business closings until May 8, as Colorado governor Jared Polis, a fellow Democrat, prepared to ease restrictions on statewide next week.

In France, the government lets families decide to keep the children at home or send them back to class when the national lockdown, in place since March 17, begins to be lifted on May 11.

Parents in Spain are faced with an equally gnarly decision: to let children get their first fresh air in the weeks when the country starts on Sunday to ease the total ban on leaving them outside.

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This story has been edited to correct the time element and spelling of flak.

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Crary reported from New York. Associated Press journalists around the world contributed to it.

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Follow the AP coverage of the pandemic at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

Russ Bynum and David Crary, Associated Press



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