As the state reopened, some of Cohen Morris voters saw hope: If business picked up, restaurants, hotels and construction sites would again need a good workforce. market. But others were terrified. “My friends were like, ‘Well I’m stuck, because I need to work, I don’t have enough savings to stay home, but I don’t want to get sick,’” Cohen recalls. Morris. As of April 20, DeKalb County alone had reported more than 1,500 total cases of the coronavirus. By April 30, the total had risen to over 2,000.
For Cohen Morris, the fact that Kemp rescinds the lockdown was alarming enough. States like Minnesota kept residents in their homes until June; in Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, did not allow the state to enter the final reopening phase until July. Some of Georgia’s neighbors in the southeast were putting in place what Cohen Morris saw as more sensible measures: Tennessee, for example, reopened in late April, but allowed individual counties to contribute to the developing their own plans and protocols. Even President Trump seemed skeptical, suggesting after Kemp’s announcement that Georgia could “wait a little longer.” Just a little, not a lot. Because security must prevail. “
Kemp’s approach left no room for municipal governments to be flexible: local regulations, he ordered, could not be “more or less restrictive” than the state mandate. “Our orders were aimed at clarifying the statewide restrictions on Covid-19,” Cody Hall, a spokesperson for Kemp, told me recently, arguing that divergent local rules statewide were often confusing. But Cohen Morris said, “It was a great general directive, and it left us with no agency to do what was right for us.” She added: “The governor wanted businesses to reopen, but he didn’t really care what happened to the people who had to work there. He wanted to wash the hands of the state of having to support them.
In May, in in the parking lot of a taqueria near Buford Highway, I met a woman named Maria, whom Cohen Morris knew from his previous work with Los Vecinos. Short dark-haired, rounded features and large almond-shaped eyes, Maria – who requested to be identified only by first name due to her family’s immigration status – was in her 60s. She and her youngest daughter came to the United States from Monterrey, Mexico, in 2003 to join Maria’s husband, then a concierge at a local hotel. Maria and her daughter, who she asked to be identified only by her first initial, G., remained. Maria’s ex-husband didn’t. “We were fighting for the money; we fought for everything, ”she told me. After she left, she did a series of odd jobs: cleaning lady, cook at McDonald’s, cashier at a popular barbershop on Buford Highway.
In 2018 G., who has Down syndrome and heart disease, graduated from high school. “While G. was still in school, she had friends, she had her teachers,” Maria said. “She could do unpaid internships at places like Kroger and Pizza Hut. It made her feel precious. It made her feel like she was needed. But she has no papers, and after graduating everything is gone. I thought: what is a job that we can do together, so that I can be there for my daughter?
She took to baking and relearned some of her late mother’s favorite recipes: chocolate flan, cupcakes, pay queso (a Mexican cheesecake). His daughter loved being his assistant, and the other two immigrants who shared their two-bedroom apartment on Buford Highway were happy to serve as taste testers. “They liked the free samples,” Maria joked. “My custard is very strong.” Three or four times a week, in the evenings, Maria and her daughter went to the taquerias that lined the highway and sold pastries and bouquets of fresh flowers, Maria prepared herself for the customers who were in line to take out.