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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: