What Georgia’s shelter in place order means

The order isn't vastly different from the City of Atlanta's previous instructions

What Georgia shelter in place order means
The Battery Atlanta on March 26. Restaurants are still open for takeout, but entertainment venues are now closed statewide.

Photograph by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Just last week, when he addressed the state during a town hall broadcast live on every local television network, Governor Brian Kemp doubled-down on his decision not to issue a shelter in place order, as many states had already done and as Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms had issued for the city. Kemp argued that what was best for Atlanta was not necessarily best for the state as a whole, specifically noting the 50 counties that didn’t yet have confirmed COVID-19 cases.

But, as it has since the COVID-19 outbreak began, a lot changes in a week. Only 12 of Georgia’s 159 counties have yet to report cases. The majority of states have passed statewide shelter in place orders. And after pressure from medical experts and local leaders, Governor Kemp announced in a Wednesday press conference that he would issue a statewide shelter in place. The order goes into effect Friday, April 3 at 6 p.m. and will remain in effect through 11:59 p.m. Monday, April 13. [Update: On April 8, the governor extended the order through April 30.] The governor’s order also supersedes not only Mayor Bottoms’s order, but also any other city/county order previously announced. So just as we did with Atlanta’s order, let’s break down the state’s.

The basics
On the whole, the state’s order is not that different from Atlanta’s previous order or any of the other city/county orders, so if you were already acting under a shelter in place order, your day-to-day shouldn’t change much. Stay home if you can, stay six-feet apart from others. Essential services remain open and essential workers can still work.

How is it different from the City of Atlanta order?
While the city’s order had more specifics on what businesses could and could not operate, the statewide order is more general. However, the state issued a separate fact sheet that noted clearly which businesses must close. (These are also outlined in the order, but with a lot more references to business codes.) These are:

  • Bars and nightclubs
  • Dining in at restaurants and private social clubs (takeout, delivery, curbside pickup is still fine, as is dining in for hospital and nursing home cafeterias)
  • Gyms and fitness centers
  • Bowling alleys
  • Theaters and live performance venues
  • Amusement parks
  • Estheticians (including waxing, threading, eyelash extension, and cosmetic treatments)
  • Hair designers, barber shops, beauty shops, and salons (including home studios)
  • Body art studios (tattoo parlors)
  • Schools for cosmetology, hair design, barbering, esthetics, and nail care
  • Licensed massage therapists

“All other entities may continue to operate subject to specific restrictions,” the fact sheet notes. Those specifics are outlined in the order, but put broadly—for a business to remain open, it cannot have more than 10 people gathered in a single location unless they’re all able to stay six feet apart at all times. Businesses not considered “critical infrastructure” should be have minimum basic operations and incorporate several guidelines for keeping employees safe, including telework, virtual meetings, increased sanitation, prohibiting handshakes, even suspending the use of credit card PIN pads and receipt signing if possible. Businesses considered critical infrastructure have similar guidelines.

What businesses are considered critical infrastructure?
The state is using the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s definitions for this, which can be found on their website. There are 16 sectors considered critical: chemicals, commercial facilities, communications, critical manufacturing, dams, defense industrial base, emergency services, energy, financial services, food and agriculture, government facilities, healthcare and public health, information technology, nuclear reactors, materials, and waste, transportation systems, and water and wastewater systems.

What can I leave the house to do?

  • Go for a walk (with or without a dog)/run/bike/hike/any other outdoor activity where you are staying six feet away from other people at all times.
  • Go to the grocery store (including stores such as Target and Wal-Mart), pharmacies, and hardware stores.
  • Visit a healthcare provider, assuming they are seeing patients. Healthcare suppliers and home healthcare workers can continue working.
  • Care for a relative that is living in another household if you need to.
  • Go to work if you have an essential job at an essential business.
  • Pick up food from a restaurant.
  • “Obtain supplies and equipment needed to work from home”—which, in theory, could mean running by your office to get something or going to a store like Office Depot.
  • Purchase a firearm or ammunition—the order has a specific clause that states “nothing in this Order shall be construed to suspend or limit the sale, dispensing, or transportation of firearms or ammunition, or any component thereof.”
  • Evacuate your home in the event of an emergency, such as a fire or gas leak.

In addition, the following things are not specifically outlined in either the order or the handout, but are most likely acceptable based on the city’s previous order and the definitions outlined in Kemp’s order.

  • Take your pet to the vet, assuming your vet is open.
  • Take MARTA if you need to.
  • Take an Uber, Lyft, or taxi if you need to.
  • Go to the gas station.
  • Get your car repaired or buy parts for it.
  • Go to the bank or ATM.
  • Go to the laundromat or dry cleaner.
  • Take your child to and from daycare, assuming the provider is still open.
  • Go to the post office.
  • Go to the liquor store.

What can’t I do?

  • Go to the gym.
  • Do any outdoor fitness activity where you’re not keeping six feet apart from others.
  • Dine in at a restaurant.
  • Host a party.
  • Visit others socially (such as have dinner with friends, relatives, etc.).
  • Go to a bar or club.
  • Go to a salon or barber or get a massage.
  • Go shopping at the mall or other nonessential retail shop.
  • Go to a bowling alley, arcade, movie theater, or other entertainment venue.

Anything else I should know?

  • The order notes that home deliveries should not involve person-to-person contact (leaving things at the door as opposed to handing packages directly.)
  • Nursing homes, inpatient hospice, and senior care facilities are not to have visitors unless they are providing a medical or otherwise essential service, dropping off supplies, providing essential support, or “end-of-life circumstances.”
  • Just as with the city’s order, the homeless are exempt but encouraged to find shelter.
  • Violating the order is a misdemeanor offense. Officers are to issue a notice before a citation or arrest. As of now, only state law enforcement can enforce the law.
  • The handout advises, “Keep [circumstances when you leave the house] rare, consolidate trips as much as possible, use takeout, curbside pickup, and delivery services whenever possible to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

Wow, there’s a lot I can still do.
There is, so please don’t abuse the privilege. Remember that we are all in this together and that people are risking their lives and losing jobs to slow down this virus and save lives. Please take it seriously. Stay home if you can, wash your hands, don’t touch your face, and keep your distance when you’re out at the grocery or taking a walk.

Download the full executive order here.

Download the state’s fact sheet here.