Q&A: Here are the rules for Georgia’s shelter in place order

There are a lot of questions about Georgia’s Shelter in Place order and it can be confusing at times. Here are answers to your most common questions.

Q: When does it begin and how long does it last?

The executive order starts at 6 p.m. on Friday April 3,2020. It lasts until 11:59 p.m. on Monday April 13, 2020. The governor can extend the order if the state of emergency he declared on March 14 is extended.

Q: What does shelter in place mean?

It means that residents and visitors to Georgia must remain in their homes and take all precautions to limit social interaction.

[READ: Guidance and FAQs about the executive order]

Q: What are the exceptions?

  • If you engaging in an essential service. This means if you are getting essential supplies (food/medicine etc) for your household and you are keeping a six foot distance between you and others you do not live with. You can go to the grocery store, the doctor, the pharmacy, pick up food from restaurants. You can exercise outside. You can also pick up supplies to maintain and clean your house. The key is consolidating trips and staying home as often as possible.
  • If you work in critical infrastructure. These are businesses and organizations defined by the Department of Homeland Security as essential workforce. Companies that supply essential goods and services and services like hospice and non-profit organizations that distribute meals are included. There are 16 measures that must be taken to limit the spread of COVID-19. Here’s a better explanation of essential businesses.
  • If you work in non-critical infrastructure but maintain social distancing rules and 20 state mandated requirements. You’ll find them on page 20 here.
  • If you are performing necessary travel. This basically means if you are travelling to one of the essential services (grocery store, pharmacy etc.)

Q: What businesses must close during the executive order?

  • Bars/Nightclubs
  • Gyms/Fitness Centers
  • Bowling Alleys
  • Theaters/Performance Venues
  • Amusement Parks
  • Waxing, threading, beauty shop, barber shop, cosmetic treatments, cosmetology/hair design/nail care schools
  • Massage therapists

Q: Can I go to the grocery store?

Absolutely. However you’re encouraged to maintain social distancing and limit trips to the store. Here’s a list of hours they are open.

Q: What about restaurants?

Dine-in restaurants must close their dining rooms. Restaurants are allowed remain open for take-out, curbside pick-up and delivery. There are exceptions for dining in hospitals, healthcare facilities, nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

Q: What about a daycare?

The governor has allowed for all licensed child care facilities to remain open however he asks that they limit a classroom to ten people, including caregivers.

Q: It’s Spring Break. Can I go to the beach?

If a Georgia city or county took emergency action or used an emergency declaration to close their beach then that beach is now open. However social distancing rules and limiting gatherings to 10 people still apply. If a beach or park was closed as part of a standard local ordinance it will remain closed.


Q: Can I play golf?

You can play golf and participate in other outdoor sports but the same rules limiting each gathering to 10 people spaced six feet apart apply.

Q: Are state parks open?

Yes they are open with social distancing rules in place. DNR rangers will be patrolling aggressively and will break up any crowds of more than 10 people. Note that the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests in the north Georgia mountains is temporarily shutting down all dispersed camping corridors, day-use areas, trailhead facilities and other recreation sites on the Blue Ridge Ranger District.

Q: What about city and county parks like the Atlanta Beltline or the Silver Comet Trail?

If a local city or county shut down a park or a trail under an emergency declaration they would reopen. If they closed these paths through a standard city ordinance they remain closed. For example the Silver Comet Trail in Cobb County remains closed. You’re best bet is to check once again with your city or county.

Q: I’m an avid bike rider. Can I drive to a location that is far from my home?

Absolutely. Get out and enjoy the spring weather.

Q: Can I go to a church service or a funeral?

Churches and funeral homes are limited to gatherings of no more than 10 people in a single location unless there is at least six feet between each person at all times. Public health officials strongly discourage gatherings of people. You may want to see if your church is streaming their service.

Q: What about Uber and Lyft? Can we still use ride share services? Can they legally operate?

Unless a business is specifically mentioned in the order they fall under the Minimum Basic Operations provision. So as long as they don’t include a gathering of 10 people and can allow for standard social distancing Uber and Lyft can continue.

Q: Can an extended stay hotel legally evict residents who cannot pay rent?

The governor has no authority to postpone rent payments.

Q: I share custody of my child with another adult and our child will travel from home to home under our joint custody rules. Can the child move?

Yes. Nothing changes in regard to custody.

Q. Do I need a letter to prove that I can keep working?

No you do not need a letter if your place of employment fits under the essential services.

Q: What happens if I violate the order?

Violating the order is a misdemeanor. You will receive a warning from law enforcement at first and risk criminal charges if you don’t comply with the order. The governor deputized county sheriffs and their deputies to allow enforcement. The Department of Public Health, Department of Public Safety, state troopers and DNR rangers are among those who will enforce the law.

Q. What about the rules my city/county set earlier?

The governor’s order supersedes all local ordinances that that conflict with the state order. Local rules can’t be stricter or looser and any emergency actions taken are overruled.

Q: If the governor’s order expires will previous local emergency declarations and rules that haven’t expired go back into effect?

The governor will evaluate extending the state deadline closer to April 13.

Q: There’s a lot of talk that some county sheriffs will pull over non-residents and ask them to leave, especially in the north Georgia mountains. Is that legal? Can counties enforce a ban on rentals/AirBNBs/VRBOs?

This is not legal. Rental bans cannot be enforced if they were made under emergency powers.

You can read the governor’s full executive order here.