Kemp's Shelter-In-Place Order leaves questions on social distancing

Gov. Brian Kemp mandated "social distancing" in the "Shelter-In-Place Executive Order that will be in Place until April 13, and issued clarifications on the matter last night, April 3, but citizens are still left with questions about what is, and is not, allowed.

In a Tweet at 9 p.m. yesterday, April 3, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp published two images, clearly identified as official statements from the Office of the Governor of Georgia.

The first of the images included a list of “Frequently Asked Questions” about the Governor’s Shelter-In-Place Order, and the Governor’s answer to those questions. This FAQ flyer mirrors the information published by the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) within hours of Kemp’s publication of the Shelter-in-Place Executive Order.

In two of the questions, Kemp restated the “social distancing” mandate that citizens must follow. While the accepted interpretation of the 6-foot, 10-person Social Distancing guideline, since it was first mentioned on March 14, has been to remain six feet from other non-related individuals at all times when in public, and to not gather in groups of more than 10, even if you maintain the six-foot rule, Kemp’s evening tweet contradicted that understanding, and made the 10-person guideline irrelevant.

“Gatherings of more than ten (10) people in a single location are not allowed unless there is at least six feet between each person at all times. This rule applies to church services and funeral services,” Kemp’s flyer states.

That statement is immediately followed by the same mandate, but applied to an outdoor setting.

“You can visit state parks and play sports outside, including golf, subject to certain restrictions,” the flyer reads. “Gatherings of more than ten (10) people are banned unless there is at least six feet between each person at all times,” the flyer stated.

Since the six-foot separation from other individuals is already established under social distancing rules, the addition of the “unless” clause to the 10-person rule makes it extraneous, with no additional or unique guidance that differentiates it from simple adherence to the six-foot rule.

However, immediately following the sentence stating that groups of 10 may congregate as long as they adhere to the six foot rule, Kemp states “If people congregate in certain areas of a state park or golf course, law enforcement will warn them to disband. If they fail to comply, they may face criminal charges.”

There is no definition given as to what constitutes “congregate.” It could refer to the 10 people mentioned earlier in the sentence, but that sentence indicated it was acceptable for 10 people to gather as long as they stay six feet apart. Nor is there a reason given why only state parks and golf courses are included in this restriction on “congregating – a restriction that includes the possibility of criminal charges. According the wording, outdoor congregations of more than 10 people are ok, if a six-foot separation is upheld – at any outdoor location other than state parks and golf courses.

In an April 3 Executive Order, Kemp specifically authorized all county sheriff’s and their deputies, to “enforce the closure of businesses, establishment, non-profit corporations or organizations in accordance with (the Shelter-In-Place) Executive Order The Executive Order giving enforcement authority to sheriffs and deputies, however, does not mention social distancing rules, only the closures of businesses as mandated in the Shelter-in-Place Executive Order.

ConnectLocal has attempted to contact Sheriff Randy Shirley to receive clarification on the social distancing rules and his intent on the level of enforcement of those rules within Stephens County. ConnectLocal has not received a return call. We will update this story as soon as Shirley provides clarification.

The second flyer or image Tweeted by Kemp last night includes directions on how to report citizens for perceived violations of the Shelter-In-Place Executive Order. Those wishing to report another citizen that they think is violating the Shelter-In-Place Executive Order are instructed to call their local sheriff’s department, or the appropriate Georgia State Patrol Troop station, or the Department of Natural Resources.


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