SAVANNAH, Georgia (AP) — Even as the confirmed US death toll from coronavirus rose past 50,000, salons, spas and barbershops reopened Friday in Georgia and Oklahoma with a green light from their Republican governors, who eased lockdown orders despite health experts’ warnings.

Though limited in scope, and subject to social-distancing restrictions, the reopening marked a symbolic milestone in the debate raging in the United States – and the world — as to how quickly political leaders should lift economically damaging lockdown orders.

Similar scenarios have been playing worldwide and will soon proliferate in the US as other governors wrestle with conflicting priorities.

Their economies have been battered by weeks of quarantine-fuelled job losses and soaring unemployment claims, yet health officials warn that lifting stay-at-home orders now could spark a resurgence of COVID-19.

The coronavirus has killed more than 190,000 people worldwide, including — as of Friday — more than 50,000 in the United States, according to a tally compiled by John Hopkins University from government figures. The actual death toll is believed to be far higher.

New cases are surging in Africa and Latin America as outbreaks subside in some places that were hit earlier.

In Oklahoma, Governor Kevin Stitt authorised personal-care businesses to open, citing a decline in the number of people being hospitalised for COVID-19.

Those businesses were directed to maintain social distancing, require masks and frequently sanitise equipment.

Still, some of the state’s largest cities, including Norman, Oklahoma City and Tulsa, were opting to keep their bans in place until at least the end of April.

Amy Pembrook and her husband, Mike, reopened their hair salon in the northwest Oklahoma town of Fairview after it had been shuttered for about a month.

“We’re super excited about going back, but we have caught a little flack from people who say it’s too early,” Amy Pembrook said.

“We just said we can live in fear for a long time or we can trust that everything is going to be OK.”

With deaths and infections still rising in Georgia, many business owners planned to stay closed despite Governor Brian Kemp’s assurance that hospital visits and new cases have levelled off enough for barbers, tattoo artists, massage therapists and personal trainers to return to work with restrictions.

  • Top Feature Photo: Manicurist Rhonda Simpson (left) polishes nails for her customer at the reopened Salon A la Mode in Dallas, Friday, April 24, 2020. The salon installed a barrier between the two to avoid the spread of COVID-19 – AP Photo/LM Otero