A trio of blue states with strict public health measures have had to weather calls from President Donald Trump to “LIBERATE” them. But when it came to a red state that Trump said he disagreed with on Wednesday, he took a much lighter approach.
The president said during Wednesday’s coronavirus task force briefing that he recently told Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp that he disagreed “strongly” with the fellow Republican’s “decision to open certain facilities” that Trump said were “in violation” of the recently issued White House phase one guidelines for re-opening.
Trump gave Kemp the equivalent of a finger wag, adding: “At the same time he must do what he thinks is right. I want him to do what he thinks is right.”
The president’s relationship with the nation’s governors has played out in tense fashion during the coronavirus pandemic. Trump has used the daily task force briefings to decry Democratic leaders at times, including the governor of Michigan, whose state Trump directed one of his “LIBERATE” tweets towards last Friday.
The president also previously claimed to have authority over governors’ decision-making when it comes to reopening from coronavirus lockdowns. He swiftly abandoned that false idea and relented, saying states can make their own decisions.
Trump has largely avoided rebuking of Republican governors, though Maryland’s Larry Hogan became an exception to the rule earlier this week. Hogan, who has been viewed as one of the more hands on governors during the pandemic, hasn’t been shy about challenging the White House, and he publicly flirted with a GOP primary run before ruling it out last June.
The sternness he’s shown to some Democratic leaders, or even Hogan, was absent Wednesday when it came to Kemp. The Georgia Republican, who is serving his first term as governor, announced earlier this week that a slew of businesses could reopen from Friday. Those businesses include gyms, barbers, massage therapists, hair salons and bowling alleys.
“Each of these entities will be subject to specific restrictions, including adherence to Minimum Basic Operations, social distancing, and regular sanitation,” Kemp said, according to remarks released by his office.
Trump urged the state to wait on Wednesday, listing some businesses he had qualms with reopening.
“I think spas and beauty salons and tattoo parlors and barber shops in phase one, we’re going to have phase two very soon, is just too soon,” Trump said. “I think it’s too soon and I love the people. I love those people that use all of those things, the spas and the beauty parlors and barber shops, tattoo parlors.”
“I love ‘em. But they can wait a little bit longer, just a little bit. Not much,” Trump said, citing “safety.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told reporters at the briefing that, if he were advising Kemp, he would urge the governor to be careful and “not to just turn the switch on and go.” He also warned that there remains the danger of a possible rebound in coronavirus cases.
“I know there’s that desire to move ahead quickly, that’s a natural human nature desire,” Fauci said. “But going ahead and leapfrogging into phases where you should not be, I would advise him as a health official and as a physician not to do that.”