Dear Georgia Member,
On March 15, Yoga Alliance issued its recommendation that in-person yoga instruction cease in locations where social distancing had become the requirement or the norm. In issuing this recommendation, we called upon yoga professionals to consider the roles that they play in their communities as civic leaders, trusted advisors, and holders of wisdom, and therefore to prioritize the health and safety of their communities. We still stand by the spirit of this recommendation.
On April 20, Governor Brian Kemp issued a new Executive Order that allows certain businesses in Georgia to re-open for in-person “minimum basic operations” this Friday, April 24. As you likely know, Georgia has been operating under a shelter-in-place order since early April in response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
To support our members navigating this dynamic situation, we have summarized in length this new Executive Order and what it means for yoga schools, businesses, and professionals. As always, we recommend that you make decisions and create policies that comport with legal requirements (in this case, this new Executive Order), with guidance (such as that from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), and with industry best practices, which we are working to develop. We also recommend that business owners consult the “Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19” publication as prepared by OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Act) as a guide for reopening.
In short, the Order names many types of businesses that will be allowed to reopen—for limited reasons and with extensive and specific health safety measures in place. It is our belief that the inclusion of “gyms and fitness centers” on this list is meant to apply to yoga schools and studios as well, though we understand it may be very difficult for some yoga businesses to be able to readily meet the health and safety requirements necessary to do so. Please see below for a detailed discussion of the Executive Order and answers to the most common questions we have received so far.
A Summary of Governor Kemp's Executive Order
Which Georgia businesses may open on April 24?
Governor Kemp’s Order identifies specific businesses that may resume certain operations, including gyms, fitness studios, bowling alleys, body art studios, estheticians, hair designers, and massage therapists. A full list of identified businesses may be found on the second page of the Order. Although they are not specifically referenced in the Order, it is Yoga Alliance’s belief that the designation of gyms and fitness centers is meant to apply to yoga studios as well.
The Order applies to all such identified businesses regardless of where in Georgia they are located. It also overrides all county and municipality shelter-in-place or business closure orders. For example, while Atlanta has instituted its own stay-at-home requirements, this Order supersedes Atlanta’s policy.
Please note, Governor Kemp’s previous state-wide shelter-in-place order—issued on April 2 and which directs Georgia residents to stay in their homes and to reduce social interaction except for limited reasons like obtaining necessary supplies—is still in effect until its expiration on April 30. The state has not provided clarity on the apparent contradictions between the new Order, which allows certain businesses to open to the public on April 24, and this existing shelter-in-place one, which would prevent the public from leaving their homes to patronize those businesses through April 30.
Are businesses required to open?
No. While the Order enables designated businesses to re-open for certain activities on April 24, it does not require them to do so. Rather, businesses identified in the Order are permitted to open to the public if they (1) open for “minimum basic operations” (defined in more detail below), (2) enforce social distancing rules, and (3) implement the health and safety measures outlined in the Order.
For what purposes are businesses allowed to open?
Under the Order, designated business may only open for “minimum basic operations,” which are:
- The minimum necessary activities to maintain the value of a business or organization, to provide services, to manage inventory, to ensure security, to process payroll and employee benefits, or for related functions. This includes “remaining open to the public.”
- The minimum necessary activities to facilitate employees or volunteers being able to work remotely from their residences or to enable members or patrons being able to participate remotely from their residences.
- Instances where employees are working outdoors without regular contact with other persons, such as delivery services, contractors, landscape businesses, and agricultural industry services.
For yoga businesses, Yoga Alliance believes that “minimum necessary activities” may include yoga teacher training programs, yoga classes, and other core operations. See the section below titled, What should yoga businesses thinking about re-opening consider?, for a longer discussion of our interpretation and recommendations.
Are there any restrictions to businesses opening?
Yes, existing social distancing rules remain in effect. The Order states that no business may allow more than ten (10) people to be gathered at a single location if the gathering requires them to stand or be seated within six (6) feet of any other person.
In practice, this rule means that yoga businesses (such as schools or studios) are not allowed to conduct trainings or hold classes in a space or in a manner where individuals would necessarily be within six (6) feet of each other. This would also prohibit hands-on adjustments. Given this restriction, it is possible that some yoga businesses may not be able to resume operations under the Order.
For businesses that reopen, what social distancing restrictions are in effect?
The Order states that no business may allow more than ten (10) people to be gathered at a single location if the gathering requires them to stand or be seated within six (6) feet of any other person.
In practice, this rule means that yoga businesses (such as schools or studios) are not allowed to conduct trainings or hold classes in a space or in a manner where individuals would necessarily be within six (6) feet of each other. The social distancing rules would also prohibit hands-on adjustments.
It also means that yoga businesses may open to deliver online yoga classes, either recorded for live broadcast or for download. Students or other individuals may be present provided that there are no more than ten (10) individuals onsite and that all participants are able to teach and practice yoga with at least six (6) feet of space in-between.
Given this restriction, it is possible that some yoga businesses may not be able to resume operations under the Order.
For businesses that re-open, what health and safety measures must be implemented?
For all businesses that open to begin in-person “minimum basic operations”, the Order requires that the following measures be implemented to mitigate the exposure and spread of COVID-19:
- Screening and evaluating workers who exhibit signs of illness (e.g., fever over 100.4 degrees, cough, or shortness of breath);
- Requiring workers who exhibit signs of illness to not report to work or to seek medical attention;
- Enhancing sanitation of the workplace as appropriate;
- Requiring hand washing or sanitation by workers at appropriate places within the business location;
- Providing personal protective equipment as available and appropriate to the function and location of the worker within the business location;
- Prohibiting gatherings of workers during working hours;
- Permitting workers to take breaks and meals outside, in their office or personal workspace, or in such other areas where proper social distancing is attainable;
- Implementing teleworking for all possible workers;
- Implementing staggered shifts for all possible workers;
- Holding all meetings and conferences virtually, wherever possible;
- Delivering intangible services remotely wherever possible;
- Discouraging workers from using other workers’ phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment;
- Prohibiting handshaking and other unnecessary person-to-person contact in the workplace;
- Placing notices that encourage hand hygiene at the entrance to the workplace and in other workplace areas where they are likely to be seen;
- Suspending the use of Personal Identification Number (“PIN”) pads, PIN entry devices, electronic signature capture, and any other credit card receipt signature requirements to the extent such suspension is permitted by agreements with credit card companies and credit agencies;
- Enforcing social distancing of non-cohabitating persons while present on such entity’s leased or owned property;
- For retailers and service providers, providing for alternative points of sale outside of buildings, including curbside pickup or delivery of products and/ or services if an alternative point of sale is permitted under Georgia law;
- Increasing physical space between workers and customers;
- Providing disinfectant and sanitation products for workers to clean their workspace, equipment, and tools;
- Increasing physical space between workers’ worksites to at least six (6) feet.
What should yoga businesses thinking about re-opening consider?
The Order leaves it to eligible businesses to determine when they should open and how to do so safely.
Businesses should consider the terms and requirements of Governor Kemp’s Order, guidance from state and federal public health agencies, internal policies, and overall best judgement.
We recognize that adherence to social distancing, sanitation, protective equipment, and other requirements may be a challenge for some yoga businesses. Yoga Alliance strongly recommends that each business develop a plan for how it will implement measures to mitigate COVID-19 exposure and spread and to consult with its legal counsel and insurance provider before opening.
We know that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated government orders and guidance have created many unanswered questions and concerns. We are continuing to monitor COVID-19 restrictions and moves to re-open businesses in Georgia and across the United States and will continue to develop guidance, best practices, and resources for our members. Specifically, we are working with experts to develop best practice recommendations for yoga businesses to consider for re-opening and operating during these unique times, when appropriate. We have been working against the benchmarks laid out in recent high-level recommendations from the US federal government and will further fast-track that work, while still seeking the expert input necessary to do so responsibly.
Reach out to us with feedback, questions, or concerns at 1-888-921-9642 (YOGA) or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for the work that you do for your communities—always, and especially now in these difficult times. Please be sure to visit us at our COVID-19 resource site.
Your Yoga Alliance