Even as the confirmed US death toll from coronavirus rose past 50,000, salons, spas, and barbershops reopened Friday in Georgia and Oklahoma with a green light from their Republican governors, who eased lockdown orders despite health experts’ warnings.
Though limited in scope, and subject to social-distancing restrictions, the reopening marked a symbolic milestone in the debate raging in the United States — and the world — as to how quickly political leaders should lift economically damaging lockdown orders.
Similar scenarios have been playing worldwide and will soon proliferate in the United States as other governors wrestle with conflicting priorities. Their economies have been battered by weeks of quarantine-fueled job losses and soaring unemployment claims, yet health officials warn that lifting stay-at-home orders now could spark a resurgence of COVID-19.
The coronavirus has killed more than 190,000 people worldwide, including — as of Friday — more than 50,000 in the United States, according to a tally compiled by John Hopkins University from government figures. The actual death toll is believed to be far higher.
In Oklahoma, Governor Kevin Stitt authorized personal-care businesses to open, citing a decline in the number of people being hospitalized for COVID-19. Those businesses were directed to maintain social distancing, require masks, and frequently sanitize equipment.
Still, some of the state’s largest cities, including Norman, Oklahoma City, and Tulsa, were opting to keep their bans in place until at least the end of April.
With deaths and infections still rising in Georgia, many business owners planned to stay closed despite Governor Brian Kemp’s assurance that hospital visits and new cases have leveled off enough for barbers, tattoo artists, massage therapists and personal trainers to return to work with restrictions.
Kemp’s timeline to restart the economy proved too ambitious even for President Trump, who said he disagrees with the fellow Republican’s plan.
On Friday, Trump signed a $484 billion bill to aid employers and hospitals under stress from the pandemic — the latest federal effort to help keep afloat businesses that have had to close or scale down. Over the past five weeks, roughly 26 million people have filed for jobless aid, or about 1 in 6 US workers.
In Georgia, David Huynh had 60 clients booked for appointments at his nail salon in Savannah, but a clothing store, jewelry shop, and chocolatier that share a street corner with his downtown business, Envy Nail Bar, remained closed.
Four women clutching face masks were waiting outside when the salon opened for the first time since March 26.
“Yes, I am ready to get my nails fixed,” said Alina Davis, a police officer for the local school system, who kept working throughout the crisis.
Meanwhile, Nikki Thomas is overdue for a visit to her hair stylist, but she’s barely ventured outside her house in the six weeks since she’s been working from home. She had no plans to change that now just because of Kemp’s decision.
“It’s obviously extremely stupid and I’m simultaneously exhausted and so angry I can barely see straight,” Thomas, 40, said in a phone interview.
The gradual reopenings come as coronavirus testing continues to lag across the United States. To date, according to data compiled by the COVID Tracking Project, just under 4.7 million people have been tested in the country of 330 million people.
New York reported its lowest number of daily COVID-19 deaths in weeks on Friday. The state recorded 422 deaths as of the day before — the fewest since March 31, when it recorded 391 deaths. More than 16,000 people have died in the state from the outbreak.
Coronavirus kills twin whose brother died in flu pandemic
Before Philip Kahn died of coronavirus on April 17 at 100 years old, he kept thinking about his twin brother, Samuel.
When he told his life story to his grandchildren, friends, and neighbors, it always began with Samuel, and now it seemed to be ending that way, too.
The twins were born into a world still torn by the flu pandemic in December 1919, in New York. Samuel died of influenza just weeks later. Philip survived.
‘‘It was always the first thing he brought up before he got into World War II stories, before he got into World Trade Center stories, it was always this,’’ his grandson, Warren Zysman, who is also a twin, told The Washington Post late Thursday. ‘‘He really didn’t know his twin brother, but it was something that really weighed very heavily on him psychologically — he held this void, this twin brother he never got to experience growing up with.’’
The two brothers are ‘‘pandemic bookends,’’ as Zysman’s wife, Corey Karlin-Zysman, put it.
Poll: Despite layoffs many in US positive about finances
WASHINGTON — One out of every four American adults say someone in their household has lost a job to the coronavirus pandemic, but the vast majority expect those former jobs will return once the crisis passes, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
The economic devastation writ by COVID-19 is clear: 26.4 million people have lost their job in the past five weeks, millions of homeowners are delaying mortgage payments and food banks are seeing lines of cars that stretch for miles. Forty-six percent of all Americans say their household has experienced some form of income loss from layoffs, reduced hours, unpaid leave or salary reductions.
And yet, the survey finds a majority of Americans still feel positive about their personal finances. One possible reason: Among those whose households have experienced a layoff, 78 percent believe those former jobs will definitely or probably return. Another positive sign: The percentage of workers who say their household has lost a source of income is not significantly different from a few weeks ago.
Seventy-one percent of Americans now describe the national economy as poor, up from 60 percent three weeks ago and 33 percent in January. At the same time, 64 percent call their personal financial situation good — a number that remains largely unchanged since before the virus outbreak began.
Some of the resiliency can likely be traced to the nearly $2 trillion rescue package enacted by Congress that expanded jobless benefits, extended forgivable loans to small businesses and provided a government check to most Americans — money that has helped stabilize some families’ finances.
The survey found Americans overwhelmingly support stay-at-home orders and other efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus — 61 percent described efforts in their area as about right, while 26 percent said they didn’t go far enough — even as those actions have forced an untold number of businesses to close.
Lower income households and those with less education appear especially hard hit by job losses — 29 percent of those whose families earn less than $50,000 a year said their household experienced a job loss, compared with 22 percent of those who make more. Similarly, 28 percent of those without a college degree experienced a household layoff, while just 19 percent with a degree said the same.
Overall, 52 percent of Americans say they approve of how President Trump is handling the economy, but Trump’s overall approval rating stands at 42 percent. And even though 53 percent of Republicans said national economic conditions were poor, 88 percent of them approve of Trump’s economic stewardship. Meanwhile 90 percent of Democrats call the economy poor.