ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp released his shelter-in-place order Thursday night that mandates Georgia residents stay in their homes with few exceptions.
The executive order states every person must remain in their home “taking every possible precaution to limit social interaction to prevent the spread or infection of COVID-19.”
The order takes effect 6 p.m. Friday and continues through Monday, April 13. It maintains that all 10.6 million Georgians stay put unless conducting “essential services,” traveling to and from work, among other necessary daily activities.
Residents are permitted to leave home to buy groceries, equipment needed to work remotely and for medical needs such as doctor appointments. Georgians are still allowed to exercise outdoors, as long as they maintain a 6-foot distance from others.
Home visitors are not permitted unless providing medical support, food or in end-of-life situations. Homeless people are urged to find shelter or contact a government agency for support.
The order closes all gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, theaters, live performance venues and amusement parks. It closes restaurants dine-in services but allows take-out and deliveries. Beauty salons, estheticians, body art studios and massage therapists are ordered to close as well.
The order does not list the shutdown of places of worship, as long as previous limits on gatherings and social distancing guidelines are adhered to. It also does not impede the sale, distribution or transportation of firearms and ammunition.
The new restrictions do not include definitions of “essential” or “non-essential” businesses but allows travel for businesses, corporations and nonprofits to conduct “minimum basic operations” such as manage inventory, check security and process payroll and employee benefits.
Businesses that operate outdoors without social interaction such as construction, landscaping and agricultural businesses are not affected by the order.
The state sets a list of criteria for “critical infrastructure” that can continue in-person operations. The requirements align with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s list of essential businesses. Those include suppliers of essential goods, as well as those who provide legal support, home hospice, nonprofits that distribute food and other health or mental health services.
Businesses that are deemed “critical infrastructure” must implement measures to curb the spread of coronavirus including screening employees who show signs of an illness or a fever, cough or shortness of breath — all symptoms of the virus. Employers must also increase cleaning, provide hand washing stations, stagger shifts and when possible telework.
The executive order dissolves any local stay-at-home or social distancing orders put into place after March 1 and no local county or official has the power to enact similar orders until the statewide order has ended.
The tight restrictions are an effort to prevent hospital overflow and create uniformity across all Georgia counties, Kemp announced Wednesday. Kemp said he made his decision after new models projected Georgia needs more time to increase its hospital surge capacity.
The governor also cited new information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that as many as 25% of individuals infected with coronavirus are asymptomatic. New findings suggest that infected individuals can transmit the virus up to 48 hours before symptoms appear.
Kemp has been hesitant to add tough restrictions on Georgians and the state’s businesses. Local elected officials have taken control, instituting various levels of stay-at-home orders across the state leading to confusion on what activities are safe to do and what businesses remain open.
“We are taking action to protect our hospitals to help our medical providers and prepare for the fate patient surge, that we know is coming,” Kemp said Wednesday. “This action will ensure uniformity across jurisdictions for Georgia sheltering in place, and help families and businesses be able to comply with its provisions.”
Kemp said he, along with the state’s top health officials, will continue to closely monitor data and make adjustments if needed.
Riley Bunch covers the Georgia Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites.
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