Georgia loosens COVID-19 restrictions

A sign that reads "our children deserve better safe choice now" is seen on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, in Decatur, Ga. Just down the road from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a community flush with resident health professionals, the Decatur school system had no shortage of expert input on whether to resume in-person classes amid the coronavirus pandemic. Scores of public health and medical professionals from the affluent, politically liberal Atlanta suburb have weighed in about what's best for their own kids’ schools.

Starting Thursday, Georgia restaurant tables can be a little closer, more people can get together and vulnerable residents are no longer supposed to stay home as Gov. Brian Kemp loosens COVID-19 restrictions.

The Republican governor said Wednesday that it’s part of an effort to show that “Georgia is open for business.”

Kemp announced March 31 that he was loosening restrictions that he had in place for nearly a year. For example, restaurant tables will now be required to be only 3.5 feet (1.07 meters) apart instead of the previous 6 feet (1.83 meters). People in movie theaters can sit closer, and there’s no longer a 50-person limit on gatherings when people are closer than 6 feet, which could allow larger indoor concerts and conventions.

The governor portrays his new executive order as part of an effort to return to “normal,” continuing to emphasize that economic health is as important as freedom from the respiratory illness that has killed more than 19,000 Georgians.

But it’s not clear if restaurants will be rushing to reopen their self-serve drink stations, if fitness instructors will quickly allow their students to be 6 feet apart instead of the previous 10 feet (3.05 meters), and if movie theaters will let people get as close as 3 feet (0.91 meters). Some business owners say they don’t intend to change much for now.

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