Coronavirus in California: “Shelter in Place” Order for Bay Area – The New York Times

California Today

Tuesday: Bay Area residents are now living under some of the nation’s tightest restrictions. Also: Lawmakers act; and a call for pet pics.

Jill Cowan


Credit…Jason Henry for The New York Times

Good morning.

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Monday was another difficult day in California as leaders in the Bay Area issued some of the tightest restrictions yet to keep coronavirus cases from surging and overwhelming the health care system.

In six counties — San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Marin, Contra Costa and Alameda Counties — officials ordered residents to shelter in place starting on Tuesday. On Monday evening, Santa Cruz County leaders joined them.

[Here’s The Times’s map of all the confirmed cases in the U.S.]

Like in Los Angeles, where officials on Monday expanded restrictions from the city to encompass the entire county of more than 10 million people, gyms, movie theaters and lots of other businesses in the Bay Area will have to close.

But unlike in L.A., residents of the affected counties will also be mostly barred from leaving home except for “essential” activities and travel.

What does that all mean? Here’s what you need to know:

How many people are affected?

The counties that ordered residents to shelter in place have a combined population of roughly 7 million. For comparison, Los Angeles County has about 10 million residents, as we mentioned above, and Orange County’s population is about 3 million.

But the Bay Area counties have been among the hardest hit by the virus, with more than 273 confirmed cases and four deaths attributed to the virus.

And how long will this last?

The order went into effect at 12: 01 a.m. It’s set to last until April 7, but officials could extend or shorten that time.

I get that I’m supposed to stay home and most businesses are supposed to close but can I still …

  • Go to work? Not unless you work for what’s considered an essential business or service provider. (More on that below.) You’re also not supposed to travel — including “on foot, bicycle, scooter, motorcycle, automobile or public transit” — unless it’s to do one of those essential things. Of course, if you’re already working from home, then that’ll probably continue.

  • Go outside? Yes, but only if you can stay at least six feet away from any people you don’t live with. That applies to shared outdoor space, say, at your apartment complex, and parks.

  • Go to restaurants? No, except for takeout. Restaurants are considered essential businesses and officials are encouraging them to stay open, but only for pick up or delivery. If you can, call your favorite local restaurant to see what steps they’re taking. (Here in L.A., there are restaurants offering pickup specials or adding extra provisions to their menus.) Schools that feed students are also supposed to send the food home with them.

  • Hang out with friends at their houses or at my house? Alas, not really. The order says that, “all public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a single household or living unit are prohibited,” and that any time you leave your house, even for essential reasons, you should be able to stay at least six feet away from others.

Are there exceptions to all this?

Definitely. There is a long list of exemptions — you can find them written out in full here, starting on Page 5 — and they’re largely ones you’d expect.

Among them: You can leave your home to buy groceries, for instance, and supermarkets will still be open.

You can do anything you have to do that’s essential to the “health and safety” of you or anyone in your household, including pets. That means doctor visits, trips to pharmacies and mental health appointments.

You can get supplies you need to work from home.

[We’re all working and learning from home. Read about whether the internet can handle it.]

People who are working at any of the aforementioned places, or who provide other essential government or utility functions, including people who work at airports, pick up garbage, maintain electrical systems and deliver mail or packages, will also able to go to work. So will those who deliver food and provide home health care.

Is there punishment for those who don’t follow the order?

There could be. Failure to comply with the order, it says, “is a misdemeanor punishable by fine, imprisonment or both.”

According to SFGate, San Francisco’s police chief, Bill Scott, said the agency would be taking a “compassionate, common sense approach” to enforcement.

What are people supposed to do if they don’t have a home?

Well, that’s not terribly clear. But the region’s more than 30,000 homeless people are exempt from the order.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Sunday that the state was working to buy hotels and trailers to move people out of densely populated homeless encampments and into shelter. However, getting people off the streets has long been the state’s most intractable problem.

[Read more about how California has been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak.]

We often link to sites that limit access for nonsubscribers. We appreciate your reading Times coverage, but we also encourage you to support local news if you can.

  • California lawmakers unanimously approved an aid package of up to $1.1 billion to offset the cascading effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Legislators are also pursuing other proposals to help, including ones that would halt evictions statewide. [The San Francisco Chronicle]

Also, Mr. Newsom issued an executive order allowing local jurisdictions to stop evictions and utility shut-offs.

  • Economists at the University of California, Los Angeles, said that the coronavirus pandemic will trigger a recession. [The Desert Sun]

  • Here’s a helpful primer on California’s lockdown of people over 65 and the chronically ill. [CalMatters]

  • A new study suggested that for every known coronavirus case, another five to 10 are undetected. [The New York Times]

  • If you missed it, this simulator is the best way to learn why it’s so important to stay away from other people right now. [The Washington Post]

  • Universal Pictures said it would no longer give theaters an exclusive period of roughly 90 days to show new movies, becoming the first old-line studio to become more like Netflix in its movie releases. The move was prompted by the pandemic, but could have lasting effects. [The New York Times]

  • Here’s how you can help your community, while still social distancing. [Wirecutter]

If you’re working from home, perhaps your office has an email thread a little like the one our National desk editor, Marc Lacey, started on Monday.

He sent a photo of himself with his dog co-worker, Sandy. He asked if anyone could best her in “overall cuteness.” I’m not going to judge the many submissions, but I think I can safely say we human journalists were the real winners.

So, in that spirit, if you’re sharing your home work space with an animal friend, send us a picture of said buddy, along with their name, your name and city where you live, and we’ll publish some responses.

I, personally, would benefit from a [email protected] inbox full of adorable and hilarious pet photos, so please, think of your friendly newsletter writer in these trying times.

Hope you’re all safe and well.

California Today goes live at 6: 30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: [email protected]. Were you forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here and read every edition online here.

Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, graduated from U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter, @jillcowan.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.

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