By Beau Evans
Capitol Beat News Service
Gov. Brian Kemp has extended social distancing and sanitization restrictions for businesses, gatherings and long-term elderly care facilities in Georgia amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a news release sent late Wednesday, the governor’s office announced Kemp signed an order extending the restrictions through Oct. 15. The order keeps restrictions that have been in place for months largely the same.
Kemp’s public health emergency, which allows him to continue issuing executive orders, has also extended until Nov. 9. Georgia’s emergency status has been in effect since mid-March when the virus began spreading in the state.
The latest order keeps in place a ban on gatherings larger than 50 people in Georgia and continues to make wearing a mask voluntary at the statewide level, not mandatory.
Cities and counties have been allowed to impose their own mask mandates since August so long as their local requirements do not apply for businesses and residences.
Residents of long-term care facilities and Georgians with chronic health conditions have been under stay-at-home orders since March, though Kemp has moved in recent weeks to start relaxing some restrictions on visitors at elderly care facilities depending on how well a facility has fought the virus.
Restaurants, bars and other popular gathering spots remain under occupancy limitations and cleanliness requirements that have been in place for several months.
Bars have been limited to no more than 50 customers or 35% of occupancy, whichever is greater. Restaurants must keep at least six feet of space between seated groups.
Kemp’s latest order does allow workers at restaurants and bars who have been symptom-free for 24 hours to return to work after showing symptoms or testing positive for the virus.
As of Wednesday afternoon, roughly 318,000 people in Georgia had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel strain of coronavirus that sparked a global pandemic. It had killed 7,021 Georgians.
Capitol Beat is a nonprofit news service operated by the Georgia Press Educational Foundation that provides coverage of state government through Georgia Press Association members, such as the White County News.