Georgia’s shelter-in-place order expires tonight, but not for everyone

The Gist: As expected, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has decided to let the state’s shelter-in-place order expire at 11:59 p.m. tonight. However, Kemp has extended the shelter-in-place order for medically fragile and elderly Georgians until June 12. He has also set restrictions on businesses until May 13.

Why it Matters: Kemp has faced pressure from business leaders who would like to see the economy restart as quickly as possible, as well as health advocates who believe it is too soon to end the shelter-in-place order and reopen the state. Kemp also came under fire from President Donald Trump earlier this month because his plan to reopen the state does not meet the guidelines set by the White House for reopening states. While numbers released by the Georgia Department of Public Health do indicate that cases of COVID-19 in Georgia have reached a plateau, the numbers do not yet indicate a decline in cases.

Ending shelter-in-place too soon runs the risk of a resurgence of coronavirus cases which could lead to another lockdown. Because COVID-19 spreads among people who do not show symptoms, it will be about two weeks before Kemp and public health officials would be able to see whether or not it was too soon to reopen.

Who is still under a shelter-in-place order?: While most people who are elderly or medically fragile already know they fit those descriptions, there are some Georgia residents who fall in the medically fragile category who may not know it. Those still under a shelter-in-place order include:

  • People who are 65 years of age or older
  • People who live in a nursing home or a long-term care facility
  • People with chronic lung disease
  • People with moderate to severe asthma
  • People with severe heart disease
  • People who are immunocompromised or have a weak immune system
  • People with Class III or severe obesity. Class III obesity means your Body Mass Index is higher than 40.
  • People with diabetes
  • People with liver disease
  • People with chronic kidney disease who are undergoing dialysis

We’re not back to normal: Kemp cautioned Georgians that the end of shelter-in-place for most residents does not mean a return to normal.

“I am urging Georgians to continue to stay home whenever possible,” Kemp said. “I want to thank the people of our great state who heeded public health advice, afforded us time to bolster our healthcare infrastructure, and flattened the curve. We were successful in these efforts, but the fight is far from over.”

Kemp is continuing enhanced testing across Georgia, ramping up contact tracing and maintaining emergency response operations in every region of the state. He is also ordering long-term-care facilities to use enhanced infection control protocols.

Some businesses still shuttered: Not all businesses get to return to work May 1. Bars, nightclubs, public swimming pools, live performance venues, and amusement park rides will remain closed until May 13.

All businesses are regulated: Businesses that have already reopened or that were deemed essential under shelter-in-place still have to follow social distancing and criteria that were required to reopen under shelter-in-place. All business establishments, corporations, organizations and local governments cannot allow more than 10 people to gather in a single location unless there are at least six feet between each person. Businesses will also have to meet sanitation requirements, stagger shifts, encourage teleworking and hold all meetings virtually when possible. Restaurants cannot have more than 10 patrons per 500 square feet. Business regulations are set to expire May 13, but may be extended beyond that.

What Kemp Says: Kemp posted the following video to his Facebook page explaining today’s actions. You can watch it below.

What Opponents Say: The Democratic Party of Georgia was quick to respond to Kemp’s decision saying Kemp was playing a “dangerous game.” You can read the full statement below.

“Against the advice of public health experts, and against the will of the majority of Georgians, Brian Kemp is playing a dangerous game by ending Georgia’s shelter in place order before it is safe,” Democratic Party of Georgia Chairwoman Nikema Williams said. “It is reckless and irresponsible for Kemp to use Georgians as the guinea pigs in a public health experiment that will go wrong. Today’s decision will have consequences — for our overworked health systems, for our struggling essential workers, and for our lives.”

Current COVID-19 Numbers: As of Thursday afternoon, Georgia has 26,173 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 5,161 hospitalizations, 1,174 ICU admissions and 1,124 deaths from COVID-19.

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