As Governor Brian Kemp prepares to start opening Georgia businesses and public spaces as early as this week, one early exemption to his long-delayed stay-at-home order sticks out: massage therapists.
Among other operations like gyms, tattoo parlors, and hair studios, Kemp gave massage therapy businesses a pass to reopen this Friday, April 24th. The exemption is of particular interest given Kemp’s history of failing to regulate massage therapists in the past.
- As secretary of state in 2018, Kemp failed to address accusations of sexual misconduct against therapists at Atlanta-area franchises of the national chain Massage Envy.
- Then-Massage Envy franchise owner Patrick Greco donated to Kemp’s gubernatorial primary campaign before and after the incidents of sexual misconduct were made public — he also held a “fundraising gala” for him.
- Customers alleged being violated by therapists at the franchise’s locations in Georgia on at least four occasions. Kemp had purview over the state’s Board of Massage Therapy, which could have disciplined the donor/franchise owner, but he did nothing.
“We’ve seen this time and again: Governor Kemp gets in front of the cameras to say that the COVID-19 crisis is under control in Georgia while reports from the ground show just the opposite,” said Accountable.US President Kyle Herrig. “Kemp was slow to respond to the pandemic, and now he’s prematurely rushing to open up his state again even as experts warn that it isn’t yet safe. Kissing up to the President shouldn’t trump his responsibility to protect the health and safety of Georgians.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci said social distancing would drastically reduce the number of deaths from the virus, and 81% of registered voters — 80% in the South — recently said that social distancing measures should continue regardless of the economic impacts of the decision. Kemp even admitted that reopening the state would lead to more COVID-19 cases, even as Georgia opened a field hospital in the Atlanta convention center “as the number of COVID-19 cases surge[d] statewide.”
Earlier this month Accountable.US obtained internal documents showing that even as Kemp tried to project an aura of calm and control publicly in the lead up to the COVID-19 crisis, behind the scenes Georgia’s agencies were struggling to obtain needed equipment to fight the crisis. Accountable.US has also requested communications and documents to determine whether Kemp’s thorny history with these businesses was relevant to his decision to reopen Georgia before experts say it is safe to do so.