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What California’s ‘Stay At Home’ Directive Means For Residents

CalOES via YouTube

On Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered all California's nearly 40 million residents to stay at home to slow the spread of the coronavirus. It came after more than a half dozen counties enacted their own shelter-in-place orders.

Here's a look at what the order means for Californians, and how it's different from county orders. You can also get more details at the state's COVID-19 resource website.

What is the order?

This order from Newsom states that all people living in California are to stay home except to get food, care for a relative or friend, get necessary health care, or go to an essential job in one of the federal critical infrastructure sectors (listed below).

Why is the state doing this?

In a letter to President Trump, Newsom said that state projections estimate 56 percent of Californians could be infected with COVID-19 over an 8-week period if no mitigation efforts are taken. Those projections do not take into account steps the state and counties and cities have already taken, including shelter in place orders in the Bay Area, Sacramento and Yolo counties and others in the state.

"The numbers we put out today assume we're just along for the ride, we're not. We want to manipulate this number down, that's what this order is all about,” Newsom said.

As of March 19, there were 1,006 positive cases and 19 deaths in California related to the coronavirus. Health officials say a lack of testing means the number of confirmed cases is likely an undercount.

How does this order relate to local shelter in place orders?

Counties in the Bay Area, Sacramento and other areas have issued their own stay at home or shelter in place orders. On Saturday the governor's office clarified how those relate:

"This is a statewide order. Depending on the conditions in their area, local officials may enforce stricter public health orders. But they may not loosen the state’s order."

What will close?

  • Dine-in restaurants
  • Bars and nightclubs
  • Entertainment venues
  • Gyms and fitness studios
  • Public events and gatherings
  • Convention Centers

What will remain open?
According to the state's website on the order, some "essential services" will stay open. Those include:

  • Gas stations
  • Pharmacies 
  • Food: Grocery stores, farmers markets, food banks, convenience stores, take-out and delivery restaurants 
  • Banks
  • Laundromats/laundry services

Essential state and local government functions will also remain open, including law enforcement and offices that provide government programs and services (see list below).
What businesses are considered essential?

California’s order says people working in the 16 sectors listed by the federal government as essential can continue going to work. Those sectors are the:

What activities are considered essential?
Californians are allowed to leave home to get food, take care of loved ones, get health care or go to a job in a sector that is considered essential.

You can also get outside and go for things such as a walk, run or bike ride, as long as you’re practicing social distancing and staying at least six feet away from other people. 

“You can still walk your dog. You can still pick up food,” Newsom said Thursday.

What does the order say about homeless populations?

Newsom’s order did not specifically list how it applies to people experiencing homelessness. Sacramento County’s order excluded homeless populations, but encouraged them to find shelter and ordered government agencies to provide it to them. For those who are unable to find shelter, the order recommends that they stay in encampments of fewer than 10 people.

When does the order go into effect? When does it end?

This order went into effect on Thursday, March 19 and is in effect until further notice.

How will this be enforced?

The order says it is enforceable under Government Code section 8665, which states that anyone who “refuses or willfully neglects” to obey a lawful order is guilty of a misdemeanor and could be fined up to $1,000, imprisoned for six months or both.

Thursday Newsom said the order will likely not be legally enforced except in counties that have said they will do so with their own local shelter-in-place orders, such as Sacramento and many counties in the Bay Area. 

“I don’t believe people need to be told by law enforcement” to stay home, Newsom said, adding that he would rely on “social pressure” to keep people away from gatherings as much as possible.

The governor hinted that non-essential businesses that do not close could face “regulatory” or “licensing enforcement.”

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