By Beau Evans
Capitol Beat News Service
Amid the push to curb coronavirus, a statewide shelter-in-place order that will shutter in-person patronizing of bars, gyms, restaurants, theaters and many other activities went into effect at 6 p.m. Friday and lasts through April 13.
Gov. Brian Kemp issued an executive order Thursday evening that exempts a range of activities deemed “essential services” like food and medical supply pick-ups and deliveries, critical infrastructure and those that help maintain minimum business operations.
Kemp has scheduled a press conference for today, April 8, at 4 p.m., and he is expected to extend the shelter-in-place order beyond April 13.
Many types of businesses deemed essential will remain open but under tightened rules to keep work areas clean and for people to keep six feet of distance at minimum between each other, as well as a maximum of 10 people per any given space.
Restaurants will have to close in-person dining areas, but food pick-ups and deliveries will be allowed. People in Georgia will also be able to travel to grocery stores, medical appointments and pharmacies, according to the governor’s office.
“Preference should be given to online ordering, home delivery and curbside pick-up services wherever possible as opposed to in-store shopping,” the order says.
Exercising is allowed outside so long as people keep their distance from each other, the order says.
Kemp also signed an executive order Wednesday to close in-person classes for all Georgia public schools for the rest of the current school year. Thousands of schools across the state are poised to lean on online instruction to finish the spring term.
Per the order, enforcing the shelter-in-place will be left to Georgia State Patrol officers and any state agency members deputized by the governor or the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency.
Those officials, along with state Department of Public Health officers, will have authority to close any business or organization not complying with the order. Individual violators will be charged with a misdemeanor.
The governor’s shelter-in-place order follows mounting pressure from health experts and politicians from both parties who have called for a statewide approach. Up to this point, Kemp has largely deferred to city and county authorities to decide whether to issue stay-at-home orders for their areas.
Grady County Commission Chairman Keith Moye said this week that if the governor does not extend the shelter-in-place order he would meet with Cairo and Whigham city officials to discuss what should be done locally.
According to Moye, the governor’s order superseded the local emergency declaration recently issued jointly by the county and two cities. However, if the state does not extend the shelter-in-place order, Moye says the local government may choose to do so in an abundance of caution.