WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said he disagrees with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp's decision to move quickly to reopen parts of the state's economy, but said the final call belongs to the governor.
"I told the governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, that I disagree, strongly, with his decision to open certain facilities,” Trump told reporters, saying the state's coronavirus case numbers don't meet the threshold needed to reopen under the White House's guidelines.
At the same time, Trump added, Kemp "must do what he thinks is right."
Kemp said he appreciated Trump's critique – and praised his "bold leadership and insight during these difficult times" – but would stick with a plan in which businesses re-open carefully with restrictions designed to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
"Our next measured step is driven by data and guided by state public health officials," Kemp said in a series of tweets. "We will continue with this approach to protect the lives – and livelihoods – of all Georgians."
Kemp, a Trump ally, announced a plan this week that would allow nail salons, massage parlors, bowling alleys, gyms and other businesses to open Friday. Church services can resume this weekend, and restaurants and movie theaters can follow suit in limited ways starting on Monday.
Disputing that plan, during a news briefing at the White House, Trump said it's "just too soon" for places like "spas and beauty salons and tattoo parlors and barber shops."
"I love them, but they can wait a little bit longer," Trump said. "Just a little bit, not much."
Defending his decision in a television interview on Wednesday, Kemp said the state is urging business owners to be careful as they open back up.
"I think one of these things that has gotten out of control on the national level is people think we are throwing the keys back to these businesses and that's it's going to be business as usual and it's not," Kemp told FOX 5 of Atlanta.
Kemp added that: "If we have a hot spot that pops up in another part of the state like we had in Albany, you know, I can do a countywide order or take different kinds of actions."
Trump's criticism of Kemp was something of a contrast to statements he made Tuesday. Asked about the governor of Georgia and his reopening plans, Trump said "he's a very capable man" and "knows what he's doing."
A neighboring lawmaker, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he agreed with Trump's critique of Georgia, saying it is going "too far too fast" with reopening businesses.
A GOP supporter of both Kemp and Trump, Graham said the administration has "given us a sound road map on how to safely reopen the economy. I strongly suggest, as a nation, we follow it."
Mayors and lawmakers in Georgia have criticized his plan to reopen the economy, saying it will lead to increases in coronavirus infections and deaths.
"I am perplexed that we have opened up in this way," Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told CNN. "As I look at the data and as I talk with our public health officials, I don’t see that it’s based on anything that’s logical."
Trump has encouraged states to reopen their economies, but only in phases and if they are seeing steady reductions in coronavirus cases and deaths.
During his daily news briefing at the White House, Trump said Georgia is not meeting those guidelines so far.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told reporters that Georgia and other states cannot simply flip a switch and tell their business people to "go."
Asked what he would advise Kemp, Fauci said: "I would tell him he should be careful."
Contributing: John Fritze