Governor Issues Orders Impacting Health Care Providers as Georgia Takes First Steps to Reopen
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp issued two executive orders this week designed to facilitate the incremental reopening of Georgia businesses. Georgia’s Public Health State of Emergency remains in place in the near term, although Georgia’s universal shelter-in-place requirement ends April 30, 2020, subject to the continuing requirements further discussed below.
On Monday, April 20, 2020, Gov. Kemp issued Executive Order No. 04.20.20.01, which authorized certain types of businesses to reopen, subject to prescribed safety measures and guidelines. Although not all health care businesses were shut down by previous orders, due to their roles as “Critical Infrastructure” or in providing “Essential Services,” the Executive Order expressly stated that all medical practices, dental practices, orthodontic practices, optometry practices, physical therapy practices, ambulatory surgical centers, physicians performing elective surgeries, health care institutions, medical facilities, and any and all other health care-related practices and services should resume treating patients as soon as possible, subject to certain guidelines and requirements, including:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines
- Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) guidelines
- Guidelines in the Executive Order designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including restrictions on allowing more than 10 people to be gathered at a single business location if the gathering requires people to stand or be seated within 6 feet of one another (although these guidelines concerning gatherings do not apply to health care providers deemed Critical Infrastructure)
The Executive Order further stated that such health care businesses are not subject to Minimum Basic Operations restrictions.
Subsequently, on April 23, 2020, Gov. Kemp issued Executive Order No. 04.23.20.02 which provided additional extensive policy changes concerning sheltering in place, reopening of businesses, and continuing safety requirements, including the following clarifications and policy changes:
- Effective May 1-13, 2020, shelter-in-place requirements will continue to apply only to certain “higher risk” individuals, including individuals who are 65 years of age or older and other individuals outlined on pages 4-5 of the Executive Order
- At least until May 13, 2020, all businesses delivering health care must adhere to the revised operational guidelines for Critical Infrastructure contained in the Executive Order on pages 10-12
- Dental practices are expressly authorized to immediately resume their full scope of services and, in addition to meeting Critical Infrastructure Requirements, must adhere to the American Dental Association’s Interim Guidance for Minimizing Risk of COVID-19 Transmission and Interim Mask and Face Shield Guidelines
- Optometrists are expressly authorized to immediately resume their full scope of services and, in addition to meeting Critical Infrastructure requirements, must adhere to the American Optometric Association’s Practice Reactivation Preparedness Guide and the Georgia Optometric Association’s COVID-19 guidelines for practices
- Opticians are expressly authorized to immediately resume their full scope of services and, in addition to meeting Critical Infrastructure requirements, must adhere to the CDC’s Recommendations for Office Disinfection and Recommendations for Employers
- Ambulatory Surgical Centers are expressly authorized to immediately resume their full scope of services and, in addition to meeting Critical Infrastructure requirements, must implement additional measures as noted on page 19 of the Executive Order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as practicable
- Hospitals, health care institutions, medical facilities, nursing homes, and other long-term health care facilities should offer in-room dining, to the extent possible
Significantly, the Executive Order further provided that the operation of businesses defined as Critical Infrastructure must not be impeded by county, municipal, or local ordinances.
Our Chambliss team continues to monitor health care developments and other legal impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Please contact Cal Marshall, Doug Griswold, or your relationship attorney if you have questions or need additional information.
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The material in this publication was created as of the date set forth above and is based on laws, court decisions, administrative rulings, and congressional materials that existed at that time, and should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinions on specific facts. In some cases, the underlying legal information is changing quickly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The information in this publication is not intended to create, and the transmission and receipt of it does not constitute, a lawyer-client relationship. Please contact your legal counsel for advice regarding specific situations.