Gov. Brian Kemp is set to roll back longstanding COVID-19 distancing restrictions in Georgia amid a mix of relief and concern from local businesses and public-health experts.
Starting Thursday, Georgia’s months-long ban on gatherings of more than 50 people in one place will be lifted per orders from the governor, who has steadily moved to ease safety measures imposed since the virus swept the state in March last year.
Restaurants and bars will be allowed to seat patrons at least 3.5 feet from each other instead of the previous 6-foot requirement. Movie-goers can sit 3 feet from each other in indoor theaters. A shelter-in-place order for nursing homes and other elderly-care facilities also will be lifted.
Additionally, police officers will be barred from shutting down businesses that refuse to comply with the new scaled-back distancing and sanitization rules. A partial ban on mask mandates in Georgia cities and counties will also remain in effect.
Kemp’s decision comes as more and more Georgians receive their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, which was made available to everyone age 16 and older starting late last month.