Georgia and the City of Atlanta Issue Separate 14-Day Restrictions Ordering Certain Residents to Stay at Home in an Effort to Reduce the Spread of COVID-19

Date   Mar 24, 2020

On March 23, 2020, the State of Georgia and City of Atlanta issued two separate orders aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19 across the state over the next 14 days. First, Governor Brian Kemp issued a “shelter-in-place” order (“State Order”) requiring certain individuals with an “increased risk of complications” from COVID-19 to shelter in place in their homes. This group includes individuals who are living in long-term care facilities, have chronic lung disease, are undergoing cancer treatment, have a positive COVID-19 test, are suspected of having COVID-19 because of their symptoms and exposure, or have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19. The State Order also closes bars and nightclubs across Georgia, and bans all gatherings of 10 or more people, unless six feet can be maintained between individuals at all times. The State Order is effective from 12:00 PM on March 24, 2020 through 12:00 PM on April 6, 2020.

Second, within hours of the State Order, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued a more comprehensive “stay-at-home” order (“Atlanta Order”) directing all Atlanta residents to stay inside their homes, with the exception of certain “essential” services, businesses, and activities. The Atlanta Order permits businesses such as grocery stores, gas stations, and restaurants serving takeout to remain open. Additionally, while the Atlanta Order prohibits all non-essential gatherings of any number of individuals, Atlanta residents may continue to engage in activities essential to their health (such as walking, hiking, or running), as long as they maintain social distancing requirements of six feet. The Atlanta Order is effective from 12:00 AM on March 24, 2020 until April 7, 2020.

State-Wide Restrictions in Georgia under the State Order:

Governor Kemp’s State Order contains three significant state-wide restrictions which may affect employers’ operations across the state:

  • Businesses Are Banned from Gatherings of 10 or More People: The State Order mandates that no business, establishment, corporation, non-profit corporation or organization shall allow more than 10 people to be gathered at a single location if such gathering requires persons to stand or be seated within six feet of any other person. As such, to the extent an employer continues operations with more than 10 employees at a single work site, it must ensure that employees (and other individuals, if applicable) maintain a distance of more than six feet.
  • Bars and Nightclubs Must Immediately Cease Operations: All businesses which possess a license to operate or otherwise meet the definition of a "bar" under Georgia law shall immediately cease operations for the next 14 days. “Bars” are defined as “any premises at which a retailer licensed . . . to sell alcoholic beverages derives 75 percent or more total annual gross revenue from the sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises.”
  • Individuals with “Increased Risk” Must Shelter-In-Place: Under the State Order, Governor Kemp has ordered that all persons with “serious underlying conditions likely to cause an increased spread of COVID-19, if such persons were to become infected,” to isolate, quarantine, or otherwise shelter-in-place in their homes. The Georgia Department of Public Health is instructed to promulgate additional rules and regulations; however, the high risk individuals include:
    • Persons who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility;
    • Persons who have chronic lung disease;
    • Persons who are currently undergoing cancer treatment; and
    • Persons who have a positive COVID-19 test, are suspected to have COVID-19 because of their symptoms and exposure, or have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19.

The State of Georgia, through the Department of Public Health, is authorized to mandate the closure of any business that fails to comply with the State Order.

City-Wide Restrictions in the Atlanta Order:

The more restrictive Atlanta Order directs all Atlanta residents to stay inside their home, other than to engage in Essential Activities, receive Essential Services, or work for Essential Business and Government Services. The Atlanta Order requires all businesses, except for Essential Businesses, to cease all activities at physical locations within the City of Atlanta, except Minimum Basic Operations. These terms are defined in the Atlanta Order (as described below).

What activities are allowed under the Atlanta Order?

Pursuant to the Atlanta Order, individuals are permitted to leave their homes to perform the following Essential Activities:

  • To engage in activities or perform tasks essential to their health and safety, or to the health and safety of their family or household members (including, but not limited to, pets), such as, obtaining medical supplies or medication, visiting a health care professional, or obtaining supplies they need to work from home.
  • To obtain necessary services or supplies for themselves and their family or household members, or to deliver those services or supplies to others, such as, canned food, dry goods, fresh fruits and vegetables, pet supply, fresh meats, fish, and poultry, and any other household consumer products, and products necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences.
  • To engage in outdoor activity (such as walking, hiking, or running), as long as the individuals maintain social distancing requirements of six feet.
  • To perform work providing essential products and services at an Essential Business or to otherwise carry out activities specifically permitted in the Atlanta Order.
  • To care for a family member or pet in another household.

What is an Essential Business under the Atlanta Order?

Below is a list of businesses deemed to be “essential” under the Atlanta Order and are, therefore, allowed to remain open:

  • Healthcare Operations (including hospitals, clinics, dentists, pharmacies, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, other healthcare facilities, healthcare suppliers, home healthcare services providers, mental health providers, or any related and/or ancillary healthcare services, and veterinary care and all healthcare services provided to animals);
  • Essential Infrastructure (including public works construction, airport operations, utility, water, sewer, gas, electrical, oil refining, roads and highways, railroads, public transportation, taxi/rideshare, solid waste collection and removal, internet, and telecommunications systems);
  • Grocery stores, farmers’ markets, farm and produce stands, supermarkets, food banks, and convenience stores;
  • Food cultivation, including farming, livestock, and fishing;
  • Businesses that provide food, shelter, and social services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals;
  • Newspapers, television, radio, and other media services;
  • Gas stations and auto-supply, auto-repair, and related facilities;
  • Banks and related financial institutions;
  • Hardware stores; lodging businesses (e.g., hotels, motels, conference centers);
  • Plumbers, electricians, exterminators, and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences, Essential Activities, and Essential Businesses;
  • Businesses providing mailing and shipping services, including post office boxes;
  • Educational institutions—including public and private K-12 schools, colleges, and universities—for purposes of facilitating distance learning or performing essential functions, provided that social distancing of six-feet per person is maintained to the greatest extent possible;
  • Laundromats, dry cleaners, and laundry service providers;
  • Restaurants and other facilities that prepare and serve food, but only for delivery or carry out. Schools and other entities that typically provide food services to students or members of the public may continue to do so under the Atlanta Order on the condition that the food is provided to students or members of the public on a pick-up and takeaway basis only. Schools and other entities that provide food services under the exemption shall not permit the food to be eaten at the site where it is provided, or at any other gathering site. Cafeterias in hospitals, nursing homes, or similar facilities are not subject to the restrictions contained in the Atlanta Order.
  • Businesses that supply products needed for people to work from home;
  • Businesses that supply other Essential Businesses with the support or supplies necessary to operate;
  • Businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food, goods or services directly to residences;
  • Home-based care for seniors, adults, or children;
  • Residential facilities and shelters for seniors, adults, and children;
  • Professional services, such as legal or accounting services;
  • Childcare facilities; and
  • Utility, water, sewer, gas, electrical, oil refining, roads and highways, railroads, public transportation, taxi/rideshare, solid waste collection and removal, internet, and telecommunications systems (including the provision of essential global, national, and local infrastructure for computing services, business infrastructure, communications, and web-based services).

What Activities can Non-Essential Businesses Continue to Perform under the Atlanta Order?

All businesses, except Essential Businesses, are required to cease all activities except “Minimum Basic Operations,” provided employees comply with social distancing requirements. The Atlanta Order defines “Minimum Basic Operations” as:

  • The minimum necessary activities to maintain the value of the business’s inventory, ensure security, process payroll and employee benefits, or for related functions.
  • The minimum necessary activities to facilitate employees of the business being able to continue to work remotely from their residences.

If you have any questions regarding this Alert, please contact the authors, Patrick Ryan,, or Patrick, attorneys in our Atlanta office. Of course, you may also contact the FordHarrison attorney with whom you usually work. Please click here for links to other mandates issued by states and major municipalities.

FordHarrison is closely monitoring the spread of Coronavirus and has implemented continuity plans, including the ability to work remotely in a technologically secure environment when necessary, to ensure continuity of our operations and uninterrupted service to our clients. We are following all CDC guidelines and state and local laws as applicable. We are committed to ensuring the health and welfare of our clients, employees, and communities while continuing to provide our clients with the highest quality service. Please see our dedicated Coronavirus Taskforce page for the latest FH Legal Alerts and webinars on Coronavirus, as well as links to governmental and industry-specific resources for employers to obtain additional information and guidance. For more information or to be connected with a Coronavirus Taskforce attorney, please contact