Gov. Brian Kemp surprised everyone — including the White House — last week when he announced he'd start allowing Georgia businesses to reopen: first gyms, bowling alleys, barbershops, and salons on Friday, and now, theaters, private social clubs, and sit-down restaurants, even though the governor's stay-at-home order is still in place until the end of the month.
The sudden announcement set forth safety guidelines, like distancing and use of protective gear by staff and clients, but it also put the onus on businesses, who were faced with a difficult decision.
Christina Herrera was shocked by the news but decided to open her salon, Three-13 Salon, Spa & Boutique, after most of her staff said they wanted to go back to work. Every employee and customer now has their temperature taken at the door and is required to wear a mask. “We have to trust our public officials,” she said.
Roughly 150 people visited to get their hair cut and colored on Saturday, about half of their normal traffic.
"I'm torn, to be honest, because, you know, it is so soon," Lauren McCormack, a local nurse, said after visiting her hairdresser for the first time in over a month. “Georgia is either setting the right example or the complete wrong example."
Plenty of business owners are similarly conflicted.
Public health experts have warned about the risks of re-opening too early, especially in states like Georgia, where the number of positive coronavirus cases is still rising. But the coronavirus pandemic has paralyzed the economy to an unprecedented degree, crippling businesses across the country and leaving millions without work—almost 30 million Americans have filed for unemployment since mid-March—and the calls to reopen are growing louder.
Since Georgia's controversial decision, several other states, including Texas, where the number of positive cases still hasn't posted consistent declines.
VICE News traveled to Atlanta to see what reopening looks like right now, and how businesses—and workers—are weighing the pros and cons of getting back to work.
Video produced by: Andrea Park, Roberto Ferdman, Angad Singh
Recorded by: Chris Hamilton, Tyrrel Williams
Edited by: Lucas Howard