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On April 24, 2020, Governor Brian Kemp issued a detailed executive order to provide substantive details for businesses to use as they begin to re-open throughout the state. The order begins to take effect on April 27 and calls for staggered re-openings for various types of businesses through May 13. This Order is said to supersede any conflicting county or municipal orders but several local leaders have protested and asked their citizens to continue to shelter in place. The order is very detailed but it leaves a great deal of responsibility to employers to determine whether certain recommendations are “practicable” and to figure out if they can and how they will satisfy the guidelines. In this post we will give you an overview of the Order.

Social Distancing

The order begins by requiring social distancing, instructing Georgians to refrain from “Gathering” and forbidding non-Critical Infrastructure businesses from allowing “Gatherings of Persons.” “Gathering” is defined as more than 10 persons physically present at a single location, if, to be present, persons will be forced or required to stand or be seated within six feet of any other person. This includes where there simply is not sufficient square footage to allow people to spread out 6 feet or more. Groups of 10 or more are allowed if they are incidental or transitory, and groups in theaters and restaurants are limited to six.

The order also encourages all businesses to provide employees with certain coverings and personal protective equipment (PPE) that is particular to their industry. The order encourages using face coverings while outside private residences and requires residents to adhere to CDC guidance on sanitation.

Details Of The Order

The Order again adopts the previous definition of what constitutes “Critical Infrastructure” as those sectors listed in the most current CISA guidance and incorporates businesses that supply essential goods to those sectors as well as legal services, home hospice, and certain non-profit mental health and food services in that definition. Critical Infrastructure businesses are encouraged, but not required, to undertake the list of precautions listed in the Order that have been previously recommended for Critical Infrastructure and required for other businesses operating as “Minimum Basic Operations.” That catch-all category, “Minimum Basic Operations,” has been discarded, however, in favor of an assortment of recommendations and requirements for different types of businesses, along with a new list of 21 requirements that mimics the prior requirements for businesses operating as “Minimum Basic Operations,” adding an increased emphasis on cleaning and sanitization.

Restaurants And Social Clubs

The Order includes much-anticipated guidance for restaurants and dine-in services, effective at 12:00 a.m. on Monday, April 27, 2020. Subject to these requirements, restaurants and private social clubs may once again provide dine-in services beginning April 27.

The Order includes 39 requirements for restaurants and provides a formula for determining occupancy: no more than 10 restaurant patrons are allowed per 500 feet of public restaurant or social club space (not including non-public spaces, restrooms, and hallways). None of these requirements apply to nursing home or hospital dining services. Those guidelines for restaurants and dine-in services are:

  • Screen and evaluate workers who exhibit signs of illness, such as a fever over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, cough, or shortness of breath;
  • Require workers who exhibit signs of illness to go home if working and not report to work or to seek medical attention;
  • Screen those employees for symptoms before working;
  • Follow CDC guidance for employees who have known or suspected COVID-19;
  • Implement teleworking and virtual meetings where possible;
  • Implement staggered shifts where possible;
  • Train employees on the importance of handwashing, the use of hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol, and providing clear instruction to avoid touching hands to face;
  • Require all employees to wear face coverings at all times and to clean or replace them daily;
  • Discourage workers from using other workers’ phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment;
  • Stagger workstations where possible to achieve six feet of separation, or alternatively some spacing combined with increased cleaning and sanitization;
  • Limit the number of employees in break rooms;
  • Prohibit handshaking and other unnecessary person-to-person contact;
  • Enforce social distancing for non-cohabitating persons on business property;
  • Increasing physical space between workers and patrons, using physical barriers (e.g. Plexiglas) at registers where practicable;
  • Discard all out-of-date food;
  • Discontinue buffets and salad bars;
  • Stocking “grab and go” coolers only as needed;
  • Ensure up-to-date Food Safety Manager certifications and refresher training for all workers;
  • Clean and sanitize entire facility prior to reopening to the public and continuing to do so with a focus on high employee or patron contact areas;
  • Clean and sanitize condiments, point of sale devices, check presenters, self-service areas, tabletops, and commonly touched surfaces as well as disposing of single-serve items between each patron;
  • Use rolled silverware and eliminating table presets
  • Remove self-serve options whenever possible;
  • Use paper single-use disposable menus where possible, or alternatively, using non-touch menus or cleaning multi-use menus frequently;
  • Frequently clean and sanitize restrooms and restocking soap and paper towels;
  • Implement procedures to increase cleaning and sanitizing of employee-only areas;
  • Redesign dining areas to ensure six feet of separation between patrons, using physical barriers on booth seating if available
  • Limit patron party size to no more than six persons seated together;
  • Consider reservation-only or call ahead-only seating to facilitate these requirements and use technological solutions such as mobile ordering and contactless payment options where possible;
  • Remind supplies and vendors of these requirements, particularly the distancing requirements;
  • Post signage at entrances to facility that no patron with a fever or COVID-19 symptoms is allowed onsite;
  • Provide hand sanitizer for use by patrons, using contactless stations where possible;
  • Prohibit patrons to congregate in waiting areas or bar areas and redesigning workflow to ensure patron separation prior to seating using floor markings, outdoor distancing, or waiting in cars where possible;
  • Utilize separate entrances and exits for patrons;
  • Establish and advertise paths to restrooms for patrons and staff to minimize congregating and maximize space between patrons;
  • Prioritize take-out and curbside services where possible; and
  • Forbid the use of restaurant and dining room playgrounds.

Of course many of these “guidelines” are less than precise and will require employers to use their best judgment. Understandably, restaurant owners want guidelines, that if followed, may insulate them from frivolous legal claims. As a starting point, restaurant owners may want to use social media to gauge regular customers’ concerns and interests in deciding whether to resume dine-in service. Some of the requirements are applicable “if practicable,” and restaurants may have to investigate alternative solutions.

Grocery Stores

The Order also imposes additional requirements on retail and wholesale grocery stores:

  • Limit the number of patrons onsite to 50% of the facility’s fire capacity occupancy or eight patrons per 1,000 square feet;
  • Encourage patrons to use hand sanitizer upon entering and provide sanitizer in various locations within the premises;
  • Encourage non-cash payments;
  • Sanitize entrance and exit doors at least three times per day;
  • Encourage workers to report safety and health concerns to the employer; and
  • Install protective screen or other mitigation measures where worker-patron interactions are likely.

The Order also requires additional measures to be taken, and in lieu of another long list of requirements, it encourages retail and wholesale grocery stores to implement various measures that restaurants are required to implement as noted above and other practices such as schedule times where vulnerable populations can shop and engaging third-party cleaning services.

Gyms, Barbershops, Salons, Theaters, Bowling Alleys

In addition to 21 requirements for all non-Critical Infrastructure Businesses, each successive group is directed to follow additional rules. While not as detailed, the Order lists requirements that gyms and fitness centers must implement, including some listed above, with an obvious focus on distance between patrons, the cessation of group classes, childcare services, and opportunities for gym-based group activities. It also requires these businesses to implement increased cleaning and sanitization protocols, while screening patrons at the entrance to the gym or fitness center and refuse entry to sick patrons or those exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms.

Moreover, given the past criticism of the previous Order allowing gyms and tattoo shops to open, the Order also requires barber shops, salons, massage therapists, tanning salons, and nail salons to (1) provide services by appointment-only; (2) allow only one patron per service-provider in the facility at a time (one parent for their child is excepted); (3) stagger workstations; (4) stagger work schedules; (5) increase sanitization and cleaning between patrons; and (6) provide PPE and training for all employees.

Movie theaters also have their own list of requirements: (1) keep seating of patrons six feet apart and enforce with ushers in each auditorium; (2) increase sanitization and cleaning; (3) create floor markings at concessions to enforce social distancing protocols; (4) food services areas must adhere to the list of requirements for restaurants and social clubs listed above; (5) party rooms must not be used for Gatherings; and (6) playgrounds and arcades within theaters must remain closed.

Bowling alleys are also covered in the Order, and they are required to implement various safety measures, many of which are covered above, especially in the requirements for theaters. Notably, any food establishment in a bowling alley must adhere to the list of requirements for restaurants and social clubs listed above, and bowling balls and shoes must now be distributed to patrons by staff after a thorough sanitizing.

Healthcare Providers
In terms of healthcare employers, the Order mainly addresses recommendations or requirements for medical sectors that had elected not to operate to conserve medical resources during the height of the pandemic or ceased elective procedures. Given the governor’s first Order encouraging these businesses to begin operating again, the Order requires that healthcare providers adhere to the recommendations for businesses operating as critical infrastructure.

It also requires dental practices to adhere to the American Dental Association’s interim guidance on minimizing risk of COVID-19 transmission, and its mask and face shield guidance. Opticians should adhere to CDC guidance on office disinfections. Ambulatory surgical centers should take steps to screen patients prior to the scheduled procedure, require staff to self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms daily, utilize PPE per CDC guidance, utilize spacing of patients in waiting rooms, use heightened disinfectant techniques, prioritize procedures as medically appropriate, provide COVID-19 testing where feasible, and use patient’s COVID-19 status in determining whether to continue with a scheduled procedure.

Too Much to Process?

We realize that Employers have had to do a lot of reading and studying to keep up with all these new regulations. We recommend you look at some of our other articles about reopening your business. The key is to make thoughtful decisions that will protect you, your employees and your customers, while at the same time making economic sense. If you need any assistance, Schwartz Rollins LLC is here to help you, 404.844.4130.

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