By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
What Kemp's shelter in place order means for Georgians
Kemp shelter
Gov. Brian Kemp addressing reporters in Atlanta on Wednesday. - photo by Georgia Health News photo

You can go to the grocery store, pharmacy and get takeout food. You can go outside to exercise.

But you can’t go to a movie theater, a gym or a barber shop.

Those are some details revealed Thursday in Gov. Brian Kemp’s “shelter in place’’ order to curb the spread of COVID-19. The order starts Friday at 6 p.m. and concludes at 11:59 p.m. on April 13.

A person can leave home to engage in essential services, work in critical infrastructure, engage in “minimum basic operations’’ and perform “necessary travel.’’

Essential work includes employment in health care, law enforcement, food and agriculture, energy, water, transportation, and communications and information technology, according to the guidance from the Governor’s Office.

Violations of the new law will be misdemeanors.

The rules continue the governor’s order to bar religious services and funerals with more than 10 people unless there is at least six feet between each person at all times. “Unfortunately, several community outbreaks can be directly attributed to recent, in-person church services and funeral services,’’ the guidance with Kemp’s order said.

Heavily attended funerals in late February and early March were linked to the alarming spread of COVID-19 in Albany and Dougherty County. The county has 521 coronavirus cases, the second-highest total in the state behind Fulton County’s 747. Fulton’s population, though, is 10 times Dougherty’s.

The Albany Hospital, Phoebe Putney, has reported 32 deaths. Dougherty County still leads the state in the number of COVID-19 deaths. And neighboring Lee County has 104 cases, the 10th-highest number in the state, even though its overall population is less than 30,000.

As of 7 p.m., Georgia reported 5,444 COVID-19 cases and 176 deaths.

The virus that threatens the world

As of Thursday, at least 297 million people in at least 38 states, 48 counties, 14 cities, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are being urged to stay home, the New York Times reported. And some nations have enacted stricter stay-at-home policies than any in the United States.

Kemp’s order, unique in the modern history of Georgia, supersedes all county and city orders that conflict with its provisions. Kemp’s press secretary, Cody Hall, said the Governor’s Office reviewed action by multiple states and localities in crafting the provisions.

Guidance on the order says that essential services “means obtaining necessary supplies and services for your household, engaging in activities essential for the health and safety of your household, and engaging in outdoor exercise activities so long as you have at least six feet between people who do not live in your household.’’

“The key takeaway is that you need to stay in your house as much as possible, but we recognized there are circumstances when you will need to leave. Keep those circumstances rare.’’

Restaurants will have to close their dining areas, but will be allowed to offer takeout and delivery services.

The order requires rules at businesses that remain open, including health screenings, regular hand washing, staggered shifts and teleworking where possible.

On Thursday before the details of the order were released, Kemp announced that federal health officials had approved Georgia’s 1135 waiver request to add flexibility for providers and members in the Medicaid and PeachCare programs.

“We want to thank CMS for granting this waiver to provide the resources and flexibility for our health care systems and heroic health care workers to fight COVID-19,” Kemp said in a statement, referring to the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. “The safety of Georgians is my top priority, and this measure helps ensure access to health care for some of our state’s most vulnerable citizens during this unprecedented time.”

More than 30 states have been approved for 1135 waivers.

“This waiver is a positive step in Georgia’s response to the COVID-19 crisis,” said Laura Colbert of consumer advocacy group Georgians for a Healthy Future. “It will make it easier for doctors and other health care providers to see Georgians covered by Medicaid and provide needed health care services, including mental health care. These changes should ease the strain on Georgia’s health care system, especially for the providers who see low-income Georgians, those with complex health conditions or disabilities, and children.”

Sign up for our E-Newsletters