US businesses prepare to reopen on Friday despite unemployment soaring

Newly eased up coronavirus guidance will allow merchants in some states to reopen as unemployment soars another week. Governors of states like Tennessee, Texas, Ohio and Montana have announced plans to get the economy back on track after the majority of businesses were forced to close to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Public health experts and other governors have criticised the move as an early decision on lifting the lockdown could result in a second surge in coronavirus infections.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, a Republican, has issued the all-clear to gyms, hair salons, bowling alleys and tattoo and massage parlours to reopen on Friday.

The same allowance will apply to cinemas and restaurants from next week.

South Carolina has already begun to ease up the measures on Monday, while Florida opened some of its beaches last Friday.

Despite the economic toll of the closures, some merchants did not agree with the move.

“No way is it safe,” said Michael Sponsel, 39, owner of the Freedom Barber shop in Atlanta, the capital and largest city of Georgia.

“Not for my barbers, not for my customers. We looked at the numbers and they don’t look good.”

He told Reuters his business would remain closed.

Georgia has recorded nearly 850 deaths out of more than 21,000 cases, the 11th-highest death toll among the 50 US states.

Angie Bullman, from Atlanta, said she would reopen her hair salon on Friday and that it was already fully booked for the weekend.

“We got to get back to work,” Bullman said.

The US Labor Department official data on Thursday showed 26.5 million Americans had filed unemployment claims over the last five weeks.

This means all jobs created during the US’ longest economic expansion have been eradicated and the occupation figures have been set back to levels similar seen during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

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Some unemployed workers are reluctant to return to work activities until it is completely safe to do so.

However, state unemployment laws ban those who refuse work from claiming jobless benefits, said Thomas Smith, an associate professor at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School.

Mr Smith said: “You’re asking people to put their life on the line,”

“These people aren’t Army Rangers – those people signed up for combat. A barber did not.”

While hospitalisations have started to level for recently, California registered its highest single-day death toll to date, with 115 deaths recorded over the previous 24 hours.

California Governor Gavin Newsom insisted state residents to remain at home.

He urged those who might want to visit the beach to not do so, although they are currently closed to the public.

Mr Newsom warned: “Otherwise, I’m going to be announcing in a week or so that these numbers (of hospitalizations) are going back up.”

Vice President Mike Pence said on Thursday that federal guidelines issued last week for easing up business restrictions are “what we believe is the best counsel for how to safely and responsibly reopen,” adding that the ultimate decision is taken by the governors.

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