Georgia Issues Guidelines for Reopening Sectors of Its Economy

April 24, 2020Alerts

On Monday, April 20, 2020 Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp issued an Executive Order that set the state on a path to begin reopening some of the businesses that have been closed since his April 2 shelter-in-place order.

Specifically, he decreed that gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, barbers, cosmetologists, hair designers, nail care artists, estheticians and massage therapists could reopen their doors on Friday, April 24, provided that businesses followed 20 social distancing and hygiene requirements.

He detailed those requirements in an April 23 order requiring that such businesses must, for instance:

  • Screen all employees for symptoms of COVID-19
  • Provide disinfectant and sanitation products for employees
  • Staff no more than 50% of normal number of employees
  • Increase physical space between workers’ worksites (e.g. chairs in a salon) to at least 10 feet.

Nonetheless, the businesses identified in the April 20 order are only permitted to perform “Minimum Basic Operations,” or “the minimum necessary activities to maintain the value of the business, provide services, manage inventory, ensure security, process payroll and employee benefits, or for related functions.” 

Kemp’s April 2 shelter-in-place order required the following businesses to close to the public: gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, theatres, live performance venues, amusement parks, body art studios, estheticians, hair designers, massage therapists and bars. The April 2 order also prohibited dine-in food services that were not located in health care or assisted-living facilities, but the order did allow for takeout, curbside pickup and delivery.

Kemp’s April 23 order also outlines how businesses not named in his April 20 order may reopen to the public. By Monday, April 27, restaurants and social clubs will be allowed to go back to limited dine-in service in Georgia. However, not all businesses are prepared to host dine-in customers. To comply with the April 23 order (noncompliance is a misdemeanor offense), restaurants and social clubs must not only follow a list of 39 social distancing and hygiene requirements (at pages 7-9 of the 26-page Order), they must limit service to no more than 10 patrons per 500 square feet of public space, excluding hallways, restrooms and kitchens. 

Effective immediately, “all retail businesses, including food establishments (such as retail and wholesale grocery stores)” must limit themselves to 50% of fire capacity occupancy or eight patrons per square feet, must comply with seven specified social distancing and hygiene measures and should comply with 13 others.

Gyms and fitness centers may also operate, but must follow 16 specified measures (which, as with those for other non-Critical Infrastructure businesses, are in addition to general measures required elsewhere in the order). Notably, gyms and fitness centers must limit use of cardio machines to every other machine, must close off areas for group sports (pools, courts, saunas), and must limit locker room use.

Movie theaters, cinemas and bowling alleys can also operate, but must provide for six feet of distance between each party of patrons (of six persons or fewer), among other measures.

Public swimming pools, performance venues and amusement parks must remain closed to the public.

Child care facilities may operate but must follow 13 measures (in addition to generally applicable measures) specific to the context of child care and education.

All other businesses that have been allowed to continue "Minimum Basic Operations" since April 2 may continue operating, but they must comply with a list of 21 measures that have been identified in previous orders. Businesses deemed Critical Infrastructure have been and continue to be permitted to continue normal operations, subject to their implementation of suggested measures to mitigate the exposure and spread of COVID-19. Any business may contact the Georgia Department of Economic Development for guidance on its status as Critical Infrastructure.

The April 23 Order remains in effect until May 13, unless extended.

Bin Minter is an attorney in the Corporate Department of Fox Rothschild. He can be reached at [email protected] or 404.962.1042.