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BY MEGAN REED
AND NICK WATSON
Update, April 3: The Hall County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted Friday to rescind the stay-at-home order adopted Wednesday for unincorporated Hall. People statewide are now required to shelter in place under the executive order signed by Gov. Brian Kemp, which will go into effect at 6 p.m. Friday.
Gov. Brian Kemp’s statewide shelter-in-place executive order will take effect 6 p.m. Friday, April 3, and will end at 11:59 p.m. Monday, April 13.
Under the order, people will only be allowed to leave home for essential activities or travel. Outdoor activities are also allowed, as long as people who do not live together stay six feet apart.
Essential activities include getting food, household supplies or medication, as well as seeking medical, behavioral health or emergency services.
Travel is limited to those essential activities, critical infrastructure and “minimum basic operations.” Those minimum basic operations include what is necessary to “maintain the value of a business, establishment, non-profit corporation, or organization, provide services, manage inventory, ensure security, process payroll and employee benefits, or for related functions.” It also includes situations in which employees are working outside but not coming into regular contact with others, such as delivery services, contractors, landscaping and agriculture.
Businesses can stay open if they are not prohibited from doing so by the order.
The businesses and professionals who must stop in-person operations and close to the public include:
Live performance venues
Operators of amusement parks
Body art studios/tattoo parlors
Beauty shops and salons
Schools for cosmetology, hair design, barbering, esthetics and nail care
Licensed massage therapists
Dine-in services at restaurants and private social clubs must also cease except for “take-out, curbside pick-up, delivery and dine-in services at hospitals, health care facilities, nursing homes, or other long-term care facilities,” according to guidance sent by Kemp’s office.
But businesses and organizations must follow several requirements, including allowing employees to work remotely if possible, staggering shifts, prohibiting handshaking, providing personal protective equipment as available and appropriate, increasing space between employees’ worksites to at least six feet, screening and evaluating workers showing symptoms, and requiring workers showing symptoms to stay home or get medical help.
Businesses, nonprofits, organizations and local governments are not allowed to have more than 10 people gathering at a single location, unless people stay six feet apart at all times. This applies to church and funeral services.
People will not need a letter from their employer or the government to prove that they fall into one of the categories exempt from the order.
The “critical infrastructure” organizations exempt from the order include legal services, home hospice and nonprofits that offer food, health or mental health services.
People who are required to shelter in place are not allowed to receive visitors, unless those visitors are providing health services and medication, supporting them to help them conduct daily living, bringing essential food or supplies, or visiting during end-of-life circumstances. Visitors delivering items should avoid in-person contact or going inside the residence if possible.
Any person who violates the executive order may face a misdemeanor charge.
The order cities Georgia code section 38-3-7, which falls under the “military, emergency management and veterans affairs” section.
“Officials enforcing this order should take reasonable steps to provide notice prior to issuing a citation or making an arrest,” according to the order.
The Georgia National Guard adjutant general and the Department of Public Safety Commissioner “shall provide resources as requested to assist in the enforcement of this order.”
The Department of Public Safety includes divisions such as Georgia State Patrol, Motor Carrier Compliance and Capitol Police.
A misdemeanor charge can be punished by a maximum $1,000 fine and/or maximum 12 months incarceration.
“At this time, the governor has not deputized local law enforcement to enforce the order. State law enforcement with (Peace Officer Standards and Training Council) certification will be charged with enforcement,” according to the guidance document provided by Kemp’s office.
Kemp had resisted following other states in taking the shelter-in-place step, preferring to leave the decision to local governments. The governor had also said he was concerned that far-reaching shutdown orders could inflict more damage to Georgia's already suffering economy.
He relented under pressure from mayors and others who feared the patchwork of differing restrictions currently in place was confusing and ineffective, as well as new guidance from state and federal health officials.
In explaining his decision, Kemp cited concern that the virus is being spread by seemingly healthy people who are infected but have no symptoms such as fever or cough, saying "those individuals could have been infecting people before they ever felt bad."
"We didn't know that until the last 24 hours," Kemp said at his news conference with Dr. Kathleen Toomey, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health. "And as Dr. Toomey told me, she goes, 'This is a game changer for us.'"
While it has been known for several weeks that asymptomatic people could transmit the virus, on March 30, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield confirmed that new data indicates that as many as 25% of people infected with COVID-19 remain asymptomatic. People who are symptomatic are also infectious up to 48 hours before symptoms appear, according to a statement from the Department of Public Health.
A number of Democrats, from Georgia and beyond, seized on Kemp's remarks to criticize him as being slow to realize that people without symptoms can still spread the virus. U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut tweeted: "Kemp isn't alone in totally misunderstanding the science and making fatal mistakes as a consequence."
Kemp spokeswoman Candice Broce fired back that his critics were making an "erroneous claim" that ignored other factors cited by the governor.
Toomey said that epidemiologic models had been built on the idea that sick people would show symptoms.
"There's probably a large number of people out there who are infected, who are asymptomatic, who never would have been recognized under our old models," Toomey said. She also said the decision was influenced by concerns that hospitals might become overrun if infections weren't slowed.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.