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Shelter-in-place leaves lots of leeway for Georgians

Exemptions for travel to state parks, golf courses

ATLANTA — Governor Brian Kemp’s new shelter in place order has lots of loopholes that allow for church services, funerals, and recreation at golf courses, lakes, and parks.

The details give Georgians a lot of leeway to make their own decisions in dealing with the pandemic.

It appeared plenty of Georgia residents spent hours leading up to emergency order on the golf course. And as long as they didn’t get too close to each other, they would have golfed within the letter of the new law that took effect at 6 p.m.

The governor’s order said residents and visitors are “required to shelter in place in their homes” for the next ten days. But it makes exceptions for workers and “essential services,” like grocery shopping, health care and even outdoor exercise as long as there’s a social distance of six feet among the participants.

The broad loopholes, according to former gubernatorial adviser Brian Robinson, are no accident.

"There is some wiggle room in here and I think that’s OK. You don’t need people being terrified about going to jobs," said the onetime aide to former Gov. Nathan Deal, now a Republican strategist.

Gov. Kemp's order creates a list of businesses required to shut down – mostly facilities like hair and nail salons, bars and performance venues. Violations would be misdemeanors.

But other businesses like restaurants can stay open for takeout services. The order describes them as “essential critical infrastructure,” but this term refers to a federal homeland security memo with a list described as “advisory only.” It includes occupations ranging from public safety and health care to real estate agents, clergy and communications.

Kemp's office signaled that the order clears the way for safe recreation – in state park campgrounds, on bike trails – and even on golf courses.  Kemp retweeted a post stressing it still allows hunting, fishing, boating and hiking – with social distancing.

"Some of those loopholes are actually going to be fairly important to mental health," Robinson said. "And that’s something I think we’re going to be dealing with long-term here."

Kemp's order includes as “essential” the travel required to get to one of those recreation areas – important to know as many metro Atlanta schools approach what is still a scheduled spring break next week.


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