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Many of Georgia's virus restrictions rolling back April 8
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Signs in the window of Diletto Bakery in Gainesville on April 7, 2020, say it is staying open but operating with to-go orders only. - photo by Scott Rogers

Many of Georgia's restrictions put in place in the early days of the pandemic are being loosened April 8 as an executive order from the governor takes effect.

Citing increasing vaccinations and a downward trend in cases, Gov. Brian Kemp declared in a video released Wednesday that as of Thursday "Georgia is open for business."

"One year ago our state was locked down due to Covid-19. Businesses were shuttered, schools were closed, and hard-working Georgians in every corner of our state feared losing everything," Kemp said. 

Kemp said many small business owners are still struggling to recover and can't endure another year of restrictions.

The executive order ends a ban on large gatherings, eliminates shelter-in-place requirements and reduces distance requirements at restaurants, bars and movie theaters and between people at group fitness classes, according to the governor's office.

Executive order loosening COVID-19 restrictions

The order maintains some safety rules, such as requiring workers to wear masks while interacting with customers and businesses to continue sanitation protocols.

President Joe Biden and the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have warned that too many Americans are prematurely declaring victory against the virus. They have appealed for mask requirements and other restrictions to be maintained or restored.

But Kemp is touting vaccinations as hastening the end of the pandemic.

"With a life-saving vaccine now being administered we are taking steps every day to return to normal," Kemp said.

All Georgia residents over the age of 16 are eligible for the vaccine.

Approximately 1.5 million Georgians have been fully vaccinated so far, and the governor urges all eligible Georgians to get their shot.

"We will put our fight with COVID-19 in the rearview mirror," Kemp said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.