April 6, 2020
On April 2, 2020, Georgia Governor Kemp signed a statewide shelter-in-place order. While many local governments within Georgia implemented ordinances of varying restrictiveness earlier in the year, this order marked the most drastic measures taken at the state level in Georgia to date. Once the order goes into effect, it will specifically supersede all local ordinances relating to social distancing.
The order requires anyone visiting or residing in the state of Georgia to shelter in their homes and places of residence from April 3, 2020 to April 13, 2020. They are also expected to “take every precaution to limit social interaction to prevent the spread or infection of COVID-19.” Individual residents are not the only ones impacted by Governor Kemp’s orders – many businesses are expected to drastically curtail their operations as well.
There are, of course, exceptions to each of these rules.
I. Exceptions for Residents
Individual residents are relieved of their obligation to stay at home if they are engaged in:
1) Essential Services, 2) Necessary Travel, 3) Minimum Basic Operations, or 4) the Critical Infrastructure workforce.
1. Essential Services
The Essential Services exception allows persons to leave their homes to obtain food and household supplies. It also ensures that individuals will not violate the order for acquiring medical products or services. The order does not appear to limit applicable medical services to only those acquired in response to COVID-19 treatment.
2. Necessary Travel
The order defines Necessary Travel as any travel done to participate in Essential Services, Minimum Basic Operations, or the Critical Infrastructure Workplace.
3. Minimum Basic Operations
Individuals are permitted to leave their residences to participate in Minimum Basic Operations, which will be discussed in greater detail below.
4. The Critical Infrastructure Workforce
People will also be permitted to leave their homes to report to work at a business deemed to be involved in “Critical Infrastructure.” This designation will be discussed in greater detail below.
II. Business Regulations
Georgia’s shelter-in-place order lays out two different pathways for businesses operating in the state. The business can either: 1) reduce its activities to Minimum Basic Operations, or 2) continue operating if it is considered Critical Infrastructure.
1. Minimum Basic Operations
Businesses not considered Critical Infrastructure are expected to reduce their activity to Minimum Basic Operations. This does not mean that business outside the order’s definition of Critical Infrastructure are expected to shutter completely.
Businesses reducing their activities to Minimum Basic Operations are still permitted to engage in activities necessary “to maintain the value of [the] business.” Some non-Critical Infrastructure businesses will even be allowed to remain open to the public – provided that they adhere to all social distancing requirements established in the order.
Minimum Basic Operations include the activities necessary to ensure that payroll is met and employee benefits are administered correctly. It also allows businesses to ensure the security of their facilities and to manage their inventory even if they are not considered Critical Infrastructure. Those limited to Minimum Basic Operation can also continue to take actions needed to facilitate or implement remote work arraignments.
Although the order allows businesses that are not considered Critical Infrastructure to continue engaging in limited activities under the Minimum Basic Operations provision, it also establishes a comprehensive list of precautionary measures that must be imposed. Those precautions will be discussed at length below.
2. Critical Infrastructure
Businesses considered Critical Infrastructure are not limited to only engaging in Minimum Basic Operations. Local governments cannot attempt to interfere with Critical Infrastructure through ordinances or other local regulations. The order does not directly define which businesses are Critical Infrastructure. Instead, it incorporates guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that attempts to define the “essential critical infrastructure workforce.
By specifically referencing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s guidance, Governor Kemp’s order defines seventeen types of businesses which can be considered Critical Infrastructure.
The list is summarized below, and the full list can be found here:
2) Law enforcement and public safety
3) Food and agriculture
5) Water and wastewater
6) Transportation and logistics
7) Public works and infrastructure support
8) Communications and information technology
9) Community and government based essential functions
10) Critical manufacturing
11) Hazardous materials
12) Financial services
14) National defense products
15) Commercial facilities
16) Residential or shelter services
17) Hygienic product producers
Governor Kemp’s order also provides some recourse for businesses that are unsure if they are considered Critical Infrastructure or not. An entity unsure about its status can request guidance from the Georgia Department of Economic Development, which has been authorized to issue written guidance. That guidance will be considered a final agency action.
III. Businesses Ordered to Close
Some businesses are positively excluded from operating while Georgia’s shelter in place order is in effect. These include:
- Gyms and fitness centers,
- Bowling alleys,
- Live performance venues,
- Amusement ride operators,
- Body art studios,
- Hair designers,
- Massage therapists, and
Restaurants and social clubs are not required to shut down under the order, but they are not allowed to provide dine-in services while the order is in place. They must instead provide take-out, pick-up, or delivery services. Diners inside hospitals and nursing homes may continue to operate, though facilities are expected to require in-room dining instead if feasible.
IV. No Visitors
Georgia’s shelter-in-place order prohibits persons from receiving or hosting social guests. The order allows medical care providers to make in-home visits. It also allows individuals to receive guests if they are providing support for daily living activities, necessary supplies, or end-of-life care.
Those who are still allowed to receive visitors are expected to maintain a minimum distance of six feet between one another when possible. Visitors delivering supplies are to deliver the products in a manner that does not require in-person contact with the resident if possible.
Notably, the order dictates that its no-visitors provision will be “strictly enforced” against nursing homes, long term care facilities, personal care homes, inpatient hospice facilities, community integration homes, assisted living communities, and other community living arrangements.
V. Distancing Standards
Whether a business is determined to be part of the Critical Infrastructure or not, all are expected to implement distancing standards.
1) Non-Critical Infrastructure
Businesses which are not deemed Critical Infrastructure under Governor Kemp’s order are expected to engage only in Minimum Basic Operations. That does not relieve the employer of the duty to impose distancing standards.
Employers are still expected to:
a) Screen employees for signs of illness,
b) Prohibit sick employees from reporting to work,
c) Enhance workplace sanitation,
d) Require hand washing,
e) Provide personal protective equipment as appropriate,
f) Prohibit gatherings of employees during work hours,
g) Permit meal breaks where social distancing is possible,
h) Implement teleworking when possible,
i) Stagger shifts as possible,
j) Holding all meetings virtually if possible,
k) Deliver services remotely when possible,
l) Discourage employees from sharing equipment,
m) Prohibiting handshaking and personal contact,
n) Placing notices encouraging handwashing in visible areas,
o) Suspending the use of PIN pads if possible,
p) Enforcing social distancing for persons present on property,
q) Providing alternative product pickup locations where possible,
r) Increasing space between workers and customers,
s) Providing disinfectants for worker tools and supplies, and
t) Increasing physical space between employee workplaces to at least six feet.
Businesses constituting Critical Infrastructure must also take steps to ensure employee safety. These include:
a) Screening employees for signs of illness,
b) Prohibiting sick employees from reporting to work,
c) Enhancing workplace sanitation,
d) Requiring hand washing,
e) Providing personal protective equipment as appropriate,
f) Prohibiting gatherings of employees during work hours,
g) Permitting meal breaks where social distancing is possible,
h) Implementing teleworking when possible,
i) Staggering shifts as possible,
j) Holding all meetings virtually if possible,
k) Delivering services remotely when possible,
l) Discouraging employees from sharing equipment,
m) Prohibiting handshaking and personal contact,
n) Placing notices encouraging handwashing in visible areas, and
o) Suspending the use of PIN pads if possible.
Businesses failing to comply with the terms of Governor Kemp’s order can be shut down. Multiple state agencies, including the Department of Public Health and the Department of Public safety will have the authority to mandate the closure of any business failing to comply with the order.
Individuals who fail to comply with the order can also face steep consequences. A person found guilty of violating the order will be guilty of a misdemeanor.
Visit our COVID-19 Hub for ongoing updates.