The spread of COVID-19 is a crisis, and it will take many of us working together to respond appropriately, effectively, and fairly. The ACLU of Georgia is monitoring the situation to ensure a response that is scientifically justified and no more intrusive upon civil liberties than absolutely necessary.
Above all, the ACLU of Georgia believes:
- Any coronavirus response should be grounded in science and public health, and not be politicized.
- Any response plan must protect the health, safety, and civil liberties of all.
- State leaders should encourage voluntary compliance with self-isolation measures as much as possible.
- If leaders want to be effective in limiting the transmission of coronavirus, they will need to pay particular attention to the most vulnerable people in our society.
Incarcerated people People in jail are highly vulnerable to outbreaks of contagious illnesses. State and local law enforcement including the attorney general, district attorneys, and local police should reduce the number of people in state custody in order to prevent the virus from entering a prison or jail.
The ACLU of Georgia is very concerned about the impact of COVID-19/the coronavirus in Georgia’s jails, prisons, and youth detention centers.
It is frequently difficult for incarcerated individuals to report problems behind bars to those outside. With COVID-19, it will be even more difficult. For that reason, the ACLU of Georgia encourages families, loved ones, facility staff, and others to report to our email hotline, email@example.com, any problems, concerns, observations, and other helpful information as it relates to COVID-19 in Georgia’s jails, prisons, and youth facilities. Collecting this information will allow ACLU of Georgia staff to monitor developing trends and learn about systemic problems and shortfalls.
Immigrants Nobody should be afraid to seek medical care for fear of immigration enforcement. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has stated that it does not conduct enforcement operations at medical facilities, except under extraordinary circumstances. In addition, ICE should halt immigration detentions to limit the spread of the virus in jails and detentions centers and to limit the hardships that the virus causes for immigrant communities.
Working people In order to encourage all people to cooperate with health officials and public health guidelines, government and employers must ensure that people are protected from job loss and economic hardship.
Government and employers must provide social and economic protection including strong paid family and medical leave policies and income support.
The Governor created his Coronavirus Task Force via Executive Order No. 02.28.20.01
The Governor declared a public health state of emergency in response to the Novel Coronavirus via Executive Order No. 03.14.20.01.
Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 38-3-51, grants the Governor the ability to declare certain types of state-level emergencies and it grants him emergency powers to address state of emergency.
The Governor authorized the Georgia Department of Defense to provide up to 2,000 National Guard troops to be called for State Active Duty via Executive Order No. 03.14.20.02.
The Georgia State House and the Georgia State Senate held a Special Legislative Session to ratify the Governor’s public health state of emergency declaration and the emergency powers that come with the declaration.
Both chambers adopted House Resolution (HR) 4EX concurring with the governor’s executive order, which concluded the Special Session.
The Governor closed all public K-12 and post-secondary schools in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The closure was initially set to last from March 18, 2020 to March 31, 2020. This action was taken via Executive Order No. 03.16.20.01.
The Governor transferred $19,552,646 from the Governor’s Emergency Fund to assist the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency in their efforts to combat COVID-19. This action was taken via Executive Order No. 03.20.20.01.
The Governor issued his first shelter in place order during the COVID-19 pandemic. This shelter in place order was issued via Executive Order No. 03.23.20.01, applied to vulnerable populations, and was set to last from March 24, 2020 to April 6, 2020.
The Governor extended the closure of public schools through April 24, 2020 via Executive Order No. 03.26.20.02.
The Governor issued Executive Order No. 03.30.20.01 to transfer $35 million from the Governor’s Emergency Fund to the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency.
The Governor issued Executive Order No. 04.01.20.01 to close public schools for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.
The Governor issued a state-wide shelter in place order to last from April 3rd through April 13th. This action was taken via Executive Order no. 04.02.20.01. This shelter in place order overruled shelter in place orders issued by individual county and city governments.
The Governor issued Executive Order No 04.03.20.01 to provide county sheriff’s the ability to enforce the April 2nd shelter in place order.
The Governor signed Executive Order No. 04.08.20.02 to extend the public health state of emergency until April 30, 2020.
The Governor authorized the Georgia Department of Defense to call up to 1,000 National Guard troops to State Active Duty. This action was taken via Executive Order No. 04.08.20.05.
The Governor signed Executive Order No. 04.13.20.02 to suspend Georgia’s anti-masking statute.
Under Georgia law, specifically O.C.G.A § 16-11-38, it is a misdemeanor offense to wear a “mask, hood, or device by which any portion of the face is so hidden, concealed, or covered as to conceal the identity of the wearer.” This particular state law was first codified in response to the prevalence of the Ku Klux Klan in Georgia.
As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance called for the use of masks to help slow the spread of COVID-19, the anti-masking statute created concern amongst government officials, law enforcement, scientists and public health experts, and residents of Georgia.
The Governor issued Executive Order No. 04.23.20.02 to allow for certain businesses to re-open, including dine in restaurants, gyms, nail salons, and tattoo parlors.
The Governor extended the public health state of emergency until June 12, 2020. This action was taken via Executive Order No. 04.30.20.01.
The Georgia State Legislature announced that they would resume in-person committee meetings on May 19th.
The Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives announced June 11th as the tentative date to resume the 2020 legislative session.
The Chairs of the House and Senate budget committees and the Director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget asked for all state agencies to cut their 2021 budgets by 14 percent.
Letters to Public Officials
March 25: Letter to Secretary of State Regarding Recommendations to Protect Georgia Voters During COVID-19 Pandemic
March 18: Letter to Public Officials With Responsibility for Dealing With COVID-19 in the Criminal Legal System
March 16: Letter to Governor Kemp and Commissioner Toomey Regarding State Actions During COVID-19 Pandemic