Images of "travel authorization letters" have been posted on social media as larger corporations provide regional offices and employees template travel authorization letters to address states that have instituted enforceable "stay-at-home" orders. Georgia is not among the states that have such orders in place.
As of Friday, March 27, 24 states, and nearly half of the country’s 328.2 million residents, will be under governor-issued orders to stay home. While some of the Executive or Emergency orders are phrased as recommendation or put in advisory terms, many rise to the level of law, with enforcement clauses, and the potential, if not the likelihood, for fines and imprisonment.
States that have instituted orders, rising above the level of “recommendations,” for the general population of their state to stay at home except for essential travel include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Montana, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Additionally, several counties and municipalities have instituted similar orders, even if their parent state has not taken that step. Atlanta is one such municipality, with Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms instituting a stay-at-home order that orders all city residents to stay home except for essential services, essential activities, work or for government services. Likewise, Gwinnett County and all 16 of it’s cities signed a joint stay-at-home order, as have DeKalb and Cobb counties.
As of this morning, March 28, there is no statewide order implemented by Gov. Brian Kemp that rises to the level of an enforceable restriction on citizen's movement or road travel.
Gwinette’s joint “stay at home” order is enforceable, with potential fines and/or imprisonment, but no clause of the order mentions restrictions on travel, only restricting gatherings and mandating the closure of certain businesses.
Dekalb’s emergency action is written as an order for all individuals living in DeKalb County to stay at their place of residence except for specified exceptions. However, there is no enforcement clause or identification of fines or jail time.
Clarke County has declared that all travel, including, but not limited to, travel on foot, bicycle, scooter, motorcycle, automobile, or public transit, except Essential Travel and Essential Activities is prohibited. However, it is stated in the ordinance that enforcement for individuals will be limited to “information delivery and education of individuals.” Jasper county has implemented a curfew during the state of emergency from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m.
In the face of these strict, and often enforceable, measures in response to COVID-19, many corporations, industry organizations and not-for-profit entities have been making template “Travel Authorization” letters and forms for employees to carry with them.
Several of these letters have been circulating on social media, causing concern among some Stephens County resident. One such letter is on Bosal USA letterhead. Bosal/MagnaFlow, a national OE replacement exhaust manufacturer, has a plant in Lavonia; it also has plants and/or offices in California, Indiana and New Jersey, all of which are states currently operating under a governor’s order to “stay-at-home.”
For example, the American Veterinary Medical Association posted on its website the following notice to members: "With shelter-at-home and similar orders in place in some locations, veterinary practices that remain open may need or want to provide documentation for team members to travel to and from work. AVMA has created a template you can customize to issue essential employee authorization letters for this purpose."
Other entities that have issued similar template letters and advice to employees in general, or in specific locals, include Fedex, Fresenius Medical Care, CVSHealth, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Albertsons, Safeway, Allied Universal and the Associated Press.
ConnectLocal contacted Toccoa Police Chief Jimmy Mize this morning, confirming that no emergency or executive order has been enacted in Georgia, Stephens County, or City of Toccoa that instructs law enforcement officers to restrict travel or question residents about the purpose of their travel.
In neighboring South Carolina, no state-wide stay-at-home order has been issued by the governor, and on March 27, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson issued an opinion Friday stating that local governments do not have the authority to exercise emergency powers that are delegated to the governor by state lawmakers. However, SC Governor Henry McMaster issued an executive order on Friday that requires out-of-state visitors who travel here from a coronavirus “hot spot” to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Those hot spots include New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and the city of New Orleans.”
In North Carolina, Governor Roy Cooper has issued a “stay at home” order for the entire state of North Carolina directing residents to stay at home except for trips for essentials such as a job, food or medicine. The order includes a list of all essential activities for which travel is permitted. The order goes into effect at 5 p.m. on Monday, March 30 and will be in effect for 30 days or until it is repealed, replaced or rescinded by the governor.