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Why Augusta leaders say they are 'handcuffed' by order to reopen businesses

Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis, Jr. held a news conference with city leaders on Tuesday to discuss...
Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis, Jr. held a news conference with city leaders on Tuesday to discuss their latest steps to battle the spread of COVID-19. (Source: WRDW)(WRDW)
Published: Apr. 21, 2020 at 2:36 PM EDT
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Tuesday, April 21, 2020

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Augusta city leaders are calling Gov. Brian Kemp's move to reopen portions of the state's economy "duplicitous."

Mayor Hardie Davis says the move is confusing since there is still a shelter-in-place order telling people to stay home to prevent the spread of COVID-19,

“Our focus right now should be on number one, testing. Number two, tracing. Number three, treatment," Davis said.

Davis is among several officials across the state opposing the re-opening right now, saying the case numbers do not reflect a flattened curve for Augusta or the state.

“Taking our foot off the break and allowing the gas to just be pushed, only to find ourselves in an even longer more protracted period of time as it relates to this COVID-19 pandemic," Davis said.

Right now, Richmond County sits in the top 13 counties in Georgia for confirmed cases. Later this week, the state is expected to peak. But local economies are crashing and communities say they need to work again.

“I share the desire to see businesses open back up as well, but I think we need to be measured in that approach," Davis said. "I think that it’s also equally important for us to be at a place where we’ve got thoughtful and compassionate leadership. People are dying."

No matter which way you look at, there are many considerations here.

Small businesses need customers and cash flow. Families need employment to stay afloat. Plus, the state is still requiring social distancing within businesses and still recommending you only go out if you can safely interact with the public.

However, mayors across Georgia are arguing they should be able to make the call for their individual cities.

Davis said there is no local data here showing the curve in coronavirus cases has flattened. He’s worried about a peak in cases.

“One of the things in our conversations with Gov. Kemp, we encouraged him to not doing anything that would impair our ability to lead our cities. And there’s something called ‘home rule,'" Davis said.

“We find ourselves at a place of being effectively handcuffed. We’re the ones closest to the people in the city. We’re the ones that they trust to lead the communities not only with information but what posture we should be in with re-opening."

Mayors are scheduled to have a conference call with the governor on Wednesday. They want him to reconsider. Meanwhile, leaders in Augusta are encouraging to say home unless it’s for essential activity.

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