News and Commentary

San Francisco Imposes Strictest Shutdown In Nation, Leaves Many Unanswered Questions

   DailyWire.com
Empty cable cars stand on California Street in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Monday, March. 16, 2020. Six of the biggest counties in the San Francisco Bay Area ordered people to stay home except for essential needs, marking one of the nation's strongest local efforts yet to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

On Monday, San Francisco imposed the strictest shutdown directives in the nation, ordering all residents of the county to “shelter at their place of residence” except if needing to leave for “essential” purposes. All “non-essential” businesses and services have likewise been ordered to shut down. Failure to comply is being treated as a misdemeanor “punishable by fine, imprisonment, or both.” Since the order was issued Monday, life in San Francisco has changed dramatically, while many unanswered questions remain.

In a health order issued Monday, San Francisco’s Department of Public Health ordered all residents to shelter in place. All individuals living in the county must “shelter at their place of residence except that they my leave to provide or receive certain essential services or engage in certain essential activities and work for essential business and government services,” the order states. The only individuals exempted from the order are the homeless, who are urged to “find shelter and government agencies to provide it.”

The order specifies that all businesses and government agencies must “cease non-essential operations at physical locations in the county.” The order also bans all “non-essential gatherings of any number of individuals” and requires the “cessation of all non-essential travel.”

“Violation of or failure to comply with this Order is a misdemeanor punishable by fine, imprisonment, or both,” the health order states.

Since the order was issued Monday, life in the city has “screeched to a halt,” as The Associated Press reports, while people are struggling to figure out what constitutes “essential” and “non-essential” activity.

San Francisco Department of Public Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax attempted to offer residents some clarity, at least on the question of exercise and pets.

“You can still walk your dog or go on a hike with another person, as long as you keep 6 feet between you,” Dr. Colfax told AP.

So going outside to exercise is considered essential and thus permitted, so long as you keep your 6-feet of distance. But what else is essential? What exactly happens if you do leave home for a “non-essential” purpose? Residents remain uncertain. “No one is clear. No one has clarity as to what next steps are,” one Oakland resident told AP.

Under the order, essential businesses and services remain open, which includes gas stations, pharmacies, grocery stories, and banks. Like an increasing number of cities, including Los Angeles, many restaurants remain open to provide takeout but dine-in is forbidden. But like personal activity, what services are truly essential or non-essential is debatable.

The potential impact of the order also remains unclear, but it will likely be significant.

Below is an excerpt from the order issued by San Francisco’s Department of Public Health Monday (formatting adjusted):

ORDER OF THE HEALTH OFFICER No. C19-07

ORDER OF THE HEALTH OFFICER OF THE CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO DIRECTING ALL INDIVIDUALS LIVING IN THE COUNTY TO SHELTER AT THEIR PLACE OF RESIDENCE EXCEPT THAT THEY MAY LEAVE TO PROVIDE OR RECEIVE CERTAIN ESSENTIAL SERVICES OR ENGAGE IN CERTAIN ESSENTIAL ACTIVITIES AND WORK FOR ESSENTIAL BUSINESS AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES; EXEMPTING INDIVIDUALS EXPERIENCING HOMELESSNESS FROM THE SHELTER IN PLACE ORDER BUT URGING THEM TO FIND SHELTER AND GOVERNMENT AGENCIES TO PROVIDE IT; DIRECTING ALL BUSINESSES AND GOVERNMENTAL AGENCIES TO CEASE NON- ESSENTIAL OPERATIONS AT PHYSICAL LOCATIONS IN THE COUNTY; PROHIBITING ALL NON-ESSENTIAL GATHERINGS OF ANY NUMBER OF INDIVIDUALS; AND ORDERING CESSATION OF ALL NON-ESSENTIAL TRAVEL

(SHELTER IN PLACE)

DATE OF ORDER: March 16, 2020

Please read this Order carefully. Violation of or failure to comply with this Order is a misdemeanor punishable by fine, imprisonment, or both. (California Health and Safety Code § 120295, et seq.; California Penal Code §§ 69, 148(a)(1); San Francisco Administrative Code section 7.17(b).)

Summary: The virus that causes Coronavirus 2019 Disease (“COVID-19”) is easily transmitted, especially in group settings, and it is essential that the spread of the virus be slowed to protect the ability of public and private health care providers to handle the influx of new patients and safeguard public health and safety. Because of the risk of the rapid spread of the virus, and the need to protect all members of the community and the Bay Area region, especially including our members most vulnerable to the virus and also health care providers, this Order requires all individuals anywhere in San Francisco to shelter in place—that is, stay at home—except for certain essential activities and work to provide essential business and government services or perform essential public infrastructure construction, including housing. This order begins at 12:01 a.m. on March 17, 2020 and will continue for three weeks through April 7, 2020, subject to the limited exceptions and under the terms and conditions more particularly set forth below.

Gatherings of individuals outside the home are generally prohibited, with certain exceptions for essential activities or essential travel or to perform work for essential businesses and government agencies or perform essential infrastructure work. Consistent with the directive issued by Governor Gavin Newsom on March 15, 2020, all bars and nightclubs are ordered closed. Restaurants and cafes—regardless of their seating capacity—that serve food are ordered closed except solely for takeout and delivery service. Additionally, all gyms and recreation facilities are ordered closed. Homeless individuals are not subject to the shelter in place order but are strongly urged to find shelter and government agencies are urged to take steps needed to provide shelter for those individuals.

Under any of the limited circumstances in which individuals are allowed to interact in person outside their residence, the Health Officer orders individuals to abide by the following requirements: (i) maintain at least six feet from other individuals, wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds as frequently as possible or using hand sanitizer, cover coughs or sneezes, and not shake hands; (ii) for people with medical conditions, regardless of age, that put them at higher risk of serious complications should they get COVID-19, and other than health care workers and other essential providers, avoid leaving their homes to the extent possible; and (iii) for employers in San Francisco that do not provide essential businesses or government services, take all steps necessary for employees to work remotely from home to the extent possible. These requirements build on the California Department of Public Health and United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines issued March 11, 2020, extended as necessary to address the health emergency affecting the Bay Area region. No individual who is sick may go to the workplace or be outside the home except as necessary to seek or receive medical care in accordance with guidance from public health officials. The Health Officer may revise this Order as the situation evolves, and facilities must stay updated by checking the City Administrator’s website (sfgsa.org) regularly.

This Order revokes and replaces Order Number C19-05b, issued March 13, 2020, and C19-02, issued March 7, 2020. Those orders are no longer in effect as of the effective date and time of this Order. This Order does not revoke Order Numbers C19-01b, C19- 03, C19-04, or C19-06.

UNDER THE AUTHORITY OF CALIFORNIA HEALTH AND SAFETY CODE SECTIONS 101040, 101085, AND 120175, THE HEALTH OFFICER OF THE CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO (“HEALTH OFFICER”) ORDERS:

  1. The intent of this Order is to ensure that the maximum number of people self-isolate in their places of residence to the maximum extent feasible, while enabling essential services to continue, to slow the spread of COVID-19 to the maximum extent possible. When people need to leave their places of residence, whether to obtain or perform vital services, or to otherwise facilitate authorized activities necessary for continuity of social and commercial life, they should at all times reasonably possible comply with Social Distancing Requirements as defined in Section 10 below. All provisions of this Order should be interpreted to effectuate this intent. Failure to comply with any of the provisions of this Order constitutes an imminent threat and creates an immediate menace to public health.
  2. All individuals currently living within the City and County of San Francisco (the “County”) are ordered to shelter at their place of residence. To the extent individuals are using shared or outdoor spaces, they must at all times as reasonably possible maintain social distancing of at least six feet from any other person when they are outside their residence. All persons may leave their residences only for Essential Activities, Essential Governmental Functions, or to operate Essential Businesses, all as defined in Section 10. Individuals experiencing homelessness are exempt from this Section, but are strongly urged to obtain shelter, and governmental and other entities are strongly urged to make such shelter available as soon as possible and to the maximum extent practicable (and to use COVID-19 risk mitigation practices in their operation).
  3. All businesses with a facility in the County, except Essential Businesses as defined below in Section 10, are required to cease all activities at facilities located within the County except Minimum Basic Operations, as defined in Section 10. For clarity, businesses may also continue operations consisting exclusively of employees or contractors performing activities at their own residences (i.e., working from home). All Essential Businesses are strongly encouraged to remain open. To the greatest extent feasible, Essential Businesses shall comply with Social Distancing Requirements as defined in Section 10 below, including by maintaining six-foot social distancing for both employees and members of the public, including, but not limited to, when any customers are standing in line.
  4. All public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a single household or living unit are prohibited, except for the limited purposes as expressly permitted in Section 10. Nothing in this Order prohibits the gathering of members of a household or living unit.
  5. All travel, including, but not limited to, travel on foot, bicycle, scooter, motorcycle, automobile, or public transit, except Essential Travel and Essential Activities as defined below in Section 10, is prohibited. People must use public transit only for purposes of performing Essential Activities or to travel to and from work to operate Essential Businesses or maintain Essential Governmental Functions. People riding on public transit must comply with Social Distancing Requirements as defined in Section 10 below, to the greatest extent feasible. This Order allows travel into or out of the County to perform Essential Activities, operate Essential Businesses, or maintain Essential Governmental Functions.
  6. This Order is issued based on evidence of increasing occurrence of COVID-19 within the County and throughout the Bay Area, scientific evidence and best practices regarding the most effective approaches to slow the transmission of communicable diseases generally and COVID-19 specifically, and evidence that the age, condition, and health of a significant portion of the population of the County places it at risk for serious health complications, including death, from COVID-19. Due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus in the general public, which is now a pandemic according to the World Health Organization, there is a public health emergency throughout the County. Making the problem worse, some individuals who contract the COVID-19 virus have no symptoms or have mild symptoms, which means they may not be aware they carry the virus. Because even people without symptoms can transmit the disease, and because evidence shows the disease is easily spread, gatherings can result in preventable transmission of the virus. The scientific evidence shows that at this stage of the emergency, it is essential to slow virus transmission as much as possible to protect the most vulnerable and to prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed. One proven way to slow the transmission is to limit interactions among people to the greatest extent practicable. By reducing the spread of the COVID-19 virus, this Order helps preserve critical and limited healthcare capacity in the County.
  7. This Order also is issued in light of the existence of 37 cases of COVID-19 in the County, as well as at least 258 confirmed cases and at least three deaths in neighboring Bay Area counties, as of 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, March 16, 2020, including a significant and increasing number of suspected cases of community transmission and likely further significant increases in transmission. Widespread testing for COVID-19 is not yet available but is expected to increase in the coming days. This Order is necessary to slow the rate of spread and the Health Officer will re-evaluate it as further data becomes available.
  8. This Order is issued in accordance with, and incorporates by reference, the
    March 4, 2020 Proclamation of a State of Emergency issued by Governor Gavin Newsom, the February 25, 2020 Proclamation by the Mayor Declaring the Existence of a Local Emergency issued by Mayor London Breed, as supplemented on March 11, 2020, the March 6, 2020 Declaration of Local Health Emergency Regarding Novel Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) issued by the Health Officer, and guidance issued by the California Department of Public Health, as each of them have been and may be supplemented.
  9. This Order is also issued in accordance with, and incorporates by reference the March 12, 2020 Executive Order (Executive Order N-25-20) issued by Governor Gavin Newsom. Executive Order N-25- 20 expressly orders that “[a]ll residents are to heed any orders and guidance of state and local public health officials, including but not limited to the imposition of social distancing measures, to control the spread of COVID-19.” This Order is also based on statements by Governor Newsom during a press conference on March 15, 2020, indicating the guidance of the State of California that all nightclubs, bars, wineries, and brewpubs close and that persons 65 years old and older isolate at home.