When it comes to COVID-19, everyone has an opinion. Just ask that Facebook friend you haven’t seen since pre-school who will outline exactly how the makers of Charmin have conspired with 5G internet service providers to kill us all.
The actual experts – you know, those who attended school and get paid to know how viruses move – all seem to agree that we still have miles to go before we sleep on this novel coronavirus. We’ve just moved past the virus nationwide peak, but social distancing remains important, as is the closure of most non-essential businesses that complicate that distancing.
It’s certainly not time for anyone in the continental United States to return to the lives we had in early February – especially in areas with larger population density. Yet, there’s a group of states – led, of course, by Republican governors who are probably sympathetic to the batsh*t-crazy protestors – who are planning to reopen before everyone else.
South Carolina has reopened some businesses, and Tennessee and Texas are set to follow suit. Texas Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick just made the headline-worthy statement “there are more important things than living” in response to reopening the economy.
But, in the game of rank headassery, there has to be a leader and that honor goes to Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.
Kemp plans to open, among other things, nail salons, massage parlors, bowling alleys and gyms, the ultimate petri dish, on Friday, April 24. On Monday April 27, he’s allowing the opening of restaurants and movie theaters, because somewhere in “The Mind of Kemp” it makes sense to space everything out three days. He implores these businesses to practice social distancing, which germs don’t give a s*** about in places like gyms.
Understandably, Kemp is catching hell for his decision. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top official on infectious diseases – who might as well be the Pope as far as all things COVID-19 are concerned – has stated that it’s a bad idea. Even Sen. Lindsey Graham’s conventionally ignorant butt believes it’s too soon. Since we’re all occupying the same sliver of land on the Western side of the planet, we should all have a valid opinion, considering Kemp is that college roommate who leaves bowls of melted ice cream sitting out for a week like it doesn’t affect the rest of us.
It’s also worth noting that Kemp waited until April 1 to institute a stay-at-home order because he’d apparently just learned that asymptomatic people could pass on the virus. Which, for a governor whose job it is to be apprised of the foundational aspects of the virus, is likely a damn lie, but is grounds for a recall either way.
Kemp’s decision has the most profound direct impact on Georgia’s 9.7 million residents, more than 30 percent of whom are African American. Atlanta, the state’s largest city, is still predominantly Black despite gentrification that would make the CEO of Pinkberry blush. Since the virus kills Black folks at a disproportionate rate as a result of generations-deep physical and socioeconomic maladies, we’ve witnessed the tragic impact of COVID-19 on other chocolate cities like Detroit and New Orleans. This virus is as contagious as an Usher song in the early 2000s, so opening Atlanta back up right now will almost certainly kill more of us off than if he just left things closed for the time being.
The coronavirus-as-genocide contingent believe that Kemp is opening up early only to target Black folks, or to use us as guinea pigs before reopening for the rest of the country. Others think that Kemp is trying to keep from having to shell out millions in unemployment benefits, i.e. if your job is open and you darkies don’t go to work, that’s your fault!
But the simplest answer is probably most accurate: Kemp’s movements align with President Trump’s barely-thought-through phases to reopen the country, and the governor wants to keep his face buried so far up his ass that he’ll be smelling Hawaiian Tropic forever. Kemp seems a willing sacrificial lamb for Trump’s plan in exchange for a favor…perhaps a spot in his cabinet, which he’ll have a shot at if no one can wake Joe Biden up in time for the November election. Thing is, he’s willing to put lives on the line in pursuit of this cause.
Fortunately, many prominent Georgians aren’t having it. Athens, Ga. Mayor Kelly Girtz said it’s too damn soon. Rapper Killer Mike refuses to open his Swag Shop barbershops on the 24th. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued a very public statement in which she attempted to protect her working relationship with Kemp while urging folks to continue to stay home.
One of the most frustrating aspects of COVID-19 is its novelty – it remains unpredictable in its movements and seems predestined to keep us struggling to maintain sanity as we wait it out indoors while essential workers put their health on the line every day. But what we do know – and what Kemp, scarily enough, might also know and not care about – is that cracking open all those businesses this week is a terrible idea.
Fortunately, we’re still in control of our own movements. Georgians, just say no and please stay home.
Dustin J. Seibert is a native Detroiter living in Chicago. Miraculously, people have paid him to be aggressively light-skinned via a computer keyboard for nearly two decades. He loves his own mama slightly more than he loves music and exercises every day only so his French fry intake doesn’t catch up to him. Find him at wafflecolored.com.