Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is ordering residents to stay at home and many businesses to shutter for 14 days in a pandemic emergency order that contains many exemptions, ranging from grocery trips to walking in parks to restaurants offering delivery and carry-out. 

The order, which takes effect at midnight March 24, is intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus and its COVID-19 disease. It came the same day as an emergency order from Gov. Brian Kemp that put restrictions on some individuals, businesses and groups, but the Atlanta version is generally more restrictive. It adds to what is now a patchwork of varying restrictions around the metro area.

Key provisions include: 

  • Residents must stay home except for “essential activities” or to run “essential businesses.” (People who are homeless are exempt, but urged to find shelter.) 
  • Public and private gatherings of “any number of people” outside a single household or living unit are prohibit, with exceptions.
  • “Non-essential” businesses, including nonprofits, with physical locations must close, except for “minimum basic operations.”
  • Anyone outdoors must remain at least 6 feet away from other people, and businesses must keep customers at least 6 feet apart. 

Key exemptions include: 

  • Parks
  • Restaurants serving delivery or carry-out
  • The Atlanta BeltLine park and trail
  • First responders and other key government workers 

Broad definitions of “essential activities” and “essential businesses” make the restrictions more open than they first sound.  

“Essential activities” include: 

  • Getting medical treatment or supplies.
  • Getting work-from-home supplies.
  • Getting necessary services or supplies, broadly defined and including groceries and household cleaning goods.
  • Outdoor activity, broadly defined and including walking, hiking and running.
  • Caring for a family member or pet.
  • Work for or obtain services in healthcare (not including gyms or fitness centers).
  • Work in essential infrastructure like utilities and transportation. 

“Essential businesses” include: 

  • Stores, farmers markets and other outlets selling groceries or household supplies, broadly defined.
  • Food cultivation.
  • Organizations that help the needy with food, shelter or social services.
  • News media.
  • Gas stations, auto repair shops and other auto services.
  • Banks and financial institutions.
  • Hardware stores.
  • Hotels, motels and other lodging.
  • Plumbers, electricians, exterminators and similar household maintenance.
  • Mailing and shipping.
  • Restaurants for delivery or carry-out only.
  • Work-from-home supplies.
  • Businesses that support other essential businesses.
  • Food delivery.
  • Home-based or residential care for seniors, adults or children.
  • Childcare.
  • Professional services like lawyers and accountants.
  • Infrastructure companies and services. 

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.