Gov. Kemp’s decision to reopen Georgia showcases extreme negligence


Kelly Tran

Coworkers Diamond and Bie Nguyen continues work on their customers following Gov. Kemp’s reopening decision.

Kelly Tran

In light of Gov. Brian Kemp’s decision to reopen the state of Georgia, news outlets, scientists and civilians nationwide are clamoring to give their two cents about the controversial issue. 

Among those disproportionately impacted are workers in the service industry. The daughter of Vietnamese immigrants, most of my family members (direct and extended) work in the service industry at nail salons. My uncle owns two salons, and my mother owns one in Midtown. All of my family members have either worked for or are still working for those salons. Gov. Kemp’s policy is putting my entire family at tremendous risk.

Although businesses are suffering from the stay-at-home order, scientists and public health officials  have made clear it is not safe to reopen. When Gov. Kemp reopened nail salons, gyms, hair salons and massage parlors on April 24, he made it impossible to maintain social distancing orders.

But not only is Gov. Kemp violating White House guidelines concerning the coronavirus and not meeting requirements for reopening, he is also blatantly disregarding the significance of the lives of these industry workers. The Hill reported that Georgia recorded at least 635 new cases and 20 more deaths in the 24-hour-period before the state was set to reopen. The state and nation are rife with criticism for Gov. Kemp, with even President Donald Trump saying he “was not happy with Brian Kemp.” 

It has become woefully clear that citizens of Georgia, especially business owners, cannot rely on Gov. Kemp’s flawed leadership. While he argued in an interview with 11 Alive TV that we must trust businesses to make the right decisions about their financial futures, he failed to realize that decision-making no longer belongs to business owners but to him. 

During times of crisis, people like my mother, my uncle and my family trust our political leaders to make decisions that will help their constituents. Gov. Kemp was elected with the responsibility to protect citizens of this state, but instead he is squandering it away. 

While businesses can choose whether to  open, the pandemic is not giving them much room to budge. The choice becomes either to open their business and risk contracting the virus in order to pay their bills, or stay at home and risk a potential foreclosure. Small business owners are stuck in between an economic rock and a hard place. 

Gov. Kemp claims he is making these decisions in the name of the people and for their safety and protection, but in reality, that’s the exact opposite of what he’s doing. If he truly cared about the safety of the citizens of his state, he would mandate a state-wide shutdown, listen to the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and enact programs to assist small business owners who are making the economically-detrimental, but life-saving decision of staying closed. 

I was born into a family where work triumphs above all. If you’re sick? You still go to school. If you’re injured? You’re still clocking in. That’s how I was raised. This mindset is shared alongside hundreds of other service workers in Georgia. By standing by the decision to reopen businesses, Gov. Kemp has made it clear he doesn’t care about the lives of those most vulnerable. He cares about the economy. 

With the state’s decision to reopen, it will not be a question of whether or not my family members will contract the disease, it will be a question of when. It will be virtually impossible for nail salons or hair salons to maintain social distancing safety measures when their work requires close contact. And for those of you who are considering going to these businesses? You’re only adding to the problem. 

Gov. Kemp was entrusted with the responsibility to make difficult choices during times of crisis. He was given the authority to make decisions that will threaten or save the lives of millions of individuals. Instead, he has shown that he does not care about my family or the families of those who will be forced to work in these upcoming weeks. 

He has demonstrated he only cares about the economy and not the lives of those blue-collar workers who endanger themselves every day to make sure people have access to essential goods. He has shown he does not care about the healthcare workers of Georgia who have been working tirelessly to ensure the safety of their patients and to fulfill their oaths to the best of their ability, even though they are running out of resources. He does not care because it won’t be him contracting the virus. It will be my mother, my lung-compromised father, my immuno-compromised grandparents and finally, me.