In response to surging case numbers and crowded hospitals, Governor Kemp last week updated the requirements of the statewide Executive Order for the first time in several weeks. The update explicitly adopts a quarantine requirement for Georgians exposed to COVID-19 and imposes an obligation on certain businesses regarding such persons. The requirement does not apply to all businesses in Georgia, and it imposes different requirements on different kinds of businesses.
This Alert will describe the quarantine protocol and its general application to businesses in Georgia. We will publish additional guidance later this week regarding specific application of the quarantine protocol to children’s Camps, Live Performance Venues, and gyms and fitness centers.
The Order Creates a Mandatory Quarantine Protocol Following Exposure
This is the first required quarantine scheme imposed in Georgia and is effective January 1-15, 2021. The new rules explicitly adopt long-standing CDC guidance on who is considered to have been “exposed” to COVID-19, and create an escalating set of required quarantine measures referred to as the Post-Exposure Quarantine Protocol (PEQP).
Who is Required to Quarantine?
The new PEQP applies to individuals who have been exposed to COVID-19, assessed as follows:
- A person who has had “close contact,” which is defined as:
- Six feet or closer, and
- For a cumulative period of fifteen minutes or more;
- With a person who has or is suspected to have COVID-19;
- Within the past 14 days.
The definition does not make any distinction regarding whether exposure occurred indoors or outside, or whether the persons involved were wearing masks: exposure status is solely a function of distance and cumulative time of proximity to the (suspected) disease carrier within the past two weeks.
What Quarantine Measures are Required?
Any person who has been exposed as described above is required to complete a quarantine period as follows:
- Quarantine at home for fourteen days from the most recent date of exposure; or
- Quarantine at home for at least ten days from the most recent date of exposure and then employ the following measures until at least fourteen days have passed since the most recent exposure:
- Wear a mask,
- Social distance, and
- “Practice extreme diligence” in self-monitoring for symptoms; or
- Quarantine at home for at least seven days from the most recent date of exposure, subject to the following:
- They test negative no earlier than day five after starting quarantine; and
- They also employ the following measures until at least fourteen days have passed since the most recent exposure:
- Wear a mask,
- social distance, and
- “Practice extreme diligence” in self-monitoring for symptoms.
Important caveat in all cases: if an individual experiences COVID-19 symptoms (as defined by the CDC and the Order) during the PEQP period, that person must seek a test and isolate until the results are received. At that point, the person should proceed according to the test results and the guidelines of both the CDC and Georgia’s Department of Public Health.
What is the Impact of the PEQP on Georgia Businesses?
The Order does not require that all businesses in Georgia take steps in response to the new PEQP. For example, the PEQP does not apply to bars, food establishments, or restaurants, to movie theaters, or to hair or body art salons. It does, however, generally require some effort from following types of businesses in certain specified ways:
- Non-Critical Infrastructure Businesses must prohibit members of the public from “volunteering or engaging in activities” if they have had contact with a person who has or is suspected to have COVID-19 within the prior 14 days and have not completed the PEQP.
- The potentially broad ban on “engaging in activities” does not appear to require businesses to turn away patrons, whose conduct and accommodation are discussed elsewhere in the rules for Non-Critical Infrastructure Businesses. It appears, rather, to be a limitation on activities other than mere patronage.
- Such businesses are still required (as they have been for months) to post signs stating that persons with symptoms of COVID-19 shall not enter, and to require Workers with symptoms to not report to work or to seek medical attention.
- Such businesses are also still required (as they have been for months) to prohibit “volunteering or engaging in activities” by members of the public who have COVID-19 or are showing symptoms.
- Gyms, fitness centers, carnivals/circuses, water parks, and amusement rides must post signage instructing patrons not to enter if they have had contact with a person who has or is suspected to have COVID-19 within the prior 14 days and have not completed the PEQP.
- Live Performance Venues must post signage instructing patrons not to enter if they have had contact with a person who has or is suspected to have COVID-19 within the prior 14 days and have not completed the PEQP.
- Children’s Camps (but not schools or childcare facilities):
- Must post signage instructing Campers not to enter if they have had contact with a person who has or is suspected to have COVID-19 within the prior 14 days and have not completed the PEQP.
- Must also prohibit access to Camp facilities and activities for Workers and Campers with “any known exposure” who have not yet completed the PEQP.
- Long-Term Care Facilities must, to the extent feasible, require Workers to follow the PEQP after “exposure due to unmitigated close contact with a positive COVID-19 case.”
What Should I Do If My Business is Required to Take Steps Under the PEQP?
We recommend that any business that is affected by the new PEQP seek legal counsel on appropriate wording for signage or other required measures relating to their interaction with the public. Also note that the Order applies to individuals exposed to COVID-19 as defined above, and that you may have employees, business partners, suppliers or others who are required to quarantine in the coming weeks even if you are not directly affected by the Order itself.