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What Georgians need to know about the shelter-in-place order

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Greg Bluestein unpacks the new stay-at-home order set in place by Governor Brian Kemp. (Video by Ryon Horne, Photos by AJC Staff)

Georgia's 10.6 million residents are under a new statewide shelter-in-place order to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Here’s what you should know: 

Q: When did it start and how long does it last?

A: The order went into effect at 6 p.m. Friday, April 3, and continues through April 13. The governor could extend it beyond that date if he renews a state public health emergency declaration that's set to expire in mid-April.

Q: Can I still leave the house?

A: Yes. It allows Georgians to leave the home to buy groceries, purchase medical equipment, go outside to exercise, respond to emergencies, head to doctor's appointments, or travel for work at businesses or nonprofits that comply with other restrictions.

You also do not need a letter to prove you need to keep working, Gov. Brian Kemp's administration said. There are other exceptions in the rules, which you can find here.

Q: What is closed? 

A: The order mandates the closure of gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, theaters, live performance venues, amusement parks, hair designers, beauty shops, cosmetology schools, barbershops and massage therapists. Earlier, the governor shut down bars and nightclubs.

Q: What about restaurants?

A: Dine-in service at restaurants and social clubs is no longer permitted, except for eateries at hospitals, nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Takeout, curbside pickup and delivery are still allowed.

>>MORE: A map of coronavirus cases in Georgia

>>MORE: Real-time stats and the latest news on the coronavirus outbreak

Q: What stays open?

A: The policy allows two different types of businesses and nonprofits to stay open: "minimum basic operations" and "critical infrastructure." It sets out a list of criteria that both types of businesses must meet to remain open, though the latter category has fewer requirements.

Q: What’s the difference between the two?

A: The "critical" firms include banks, hardware stores, utilities, key manufacturers, suppliers of essential goods, legal firms, news outlets, health providers, and nonprofits that specialize in food delivery and health services.

All others that want to stay open must conduct “minimum necessary activities.”

>>More: Read the order here.

Gov. Brian Kemp speaks during a press conference at Liberty Plaza, across the street from the Georgia State Capitol building, in downtown Atlanta, Wednesday, April 1, 2020. During the presser, Kemp ordered all Georgia K-12 schools to be closed until the end of the academic school year and said he will sign an order enforcing a “stay-at-home” order for all Georgians until April 13.
Gov. Brian Kemp speaks during a press conference at Liberty Plaza, across the street from the Georgia State Capitol building, in downtown Atlanta, Wednesday, April 1, 2020. During the presser, Kemp ordered all Georgia K-12 schools to be closed until the end of the academic school year and said he will sign an order enforcing a “stay-at-home” order for all Georgians until April 13.

Credit: Alyssa Pointer, alyssa.pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer, alyssa.pointer@ajc.com

Q: What are some of the requirements to stay open? 

A: Employers must screen workers for symptoms of coronavirus, such as a fever over 100.4 degrees, a cough or shortness of breath. They must hold virtual meetings and implement teleworking and staggered shifts when possible. They must ban group gatherings and enforce social distancing.

The companies that aren’t considered “critical” must also meet a few additional guidelines, including increasing space between employees and customers, providing  more disinfectant and sanitation services and setting up alternate points of sale outside.

Q: Can I still go outside to exercise?

A: Yes. There are no limits on exercise, so long as social distancing is employed. You can still visit state parks and play sports outside, including golf, though gatherings of more than 10 people are banned unless there's at least six feet between each person.

Q: Do my local government’s restrictions still apply?

A: The new statewide rules override the patchwork of restrictions that local governments adopted over the past few weeks. That means more stringent or lenient rules adopted by some cities and counties are no longer in place.

Cities and counties may take limited extra steps, such as closing parks, according to a statement by the Georgia attorney general’s office. However, local governments may not take action that “in any way conflicts, varies or differs” from the governor’s order, the statement said.

Q: Can I still go to church or my house of worship? 

A: The order permits residents to visit places of worship, so long as social-distancing guidelines and other restrictions are followed, though Kemp has publicly wrestled over whether to impose stiffer limits on congregations.

Q: What about childcare?

A: The governor signed a separate executive order that specifies that babysitters, nannies and others who provide "regular care" of children are considered essential services, though it urged them to practice social distancing.

Q: Does this order limit the sale of guns or ammunition?

A: No. The mandate specifies that the sale, distribution or transportation of firearms and ammunition is not affected. 

Q: What happens if people or businesses don’t comply? 

A: Those who violate the terms of the order could face misdemeanor charges.

Q: Who will enforce the rules?

A: At a press conference Wednesday, Kemp said the Georgia State Patrol and state law enforcement officers will take "appropriate action to ensure full compliance — no exceptions."

The governor on Friday deputized sheriff’s deputies to enforce closures of businesses that violate the rules, though he hasn’t yet granted the same powers to local police officers.