This is a breaking story, and will be updated when more news is available.
In a Monday afternoon press conference, San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced that as of midnight on March 17, residents of San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Marin, Contra Costa and Alameda counties have been legally ordered to remain at home and shelter in place in an effort to slow the spread of the new coronavirus (COVID-19). However, restaurants and coffee shops are still allowed to remain open and serve patrons, as long as all orders are takeout or delivery.
The full order from the San Francisco Department of Public Health (DPH), which can be read here, states that residents are required to remain home “except for essential needs” until April 7, though Breed said Monday that the region will re-evaluate that date as the crisis progresses. The same will be true for the other Bay Area counties, DPH head Dr. Grant Colefax says, as the entire region “worked in concert” to create the order.
Breed, Colefax, and San Francisco Police Department Chief Bill Scott all urged residents not to panic, and said that no one should rush out to stock up on supplies. “All essential stores will remain open,” Breed said, including grocery stores, pharmacies, and restaurants that offer takeout or delivery, as long as a six-foot social distance is possible at those spots. Other non-essential spots, like gyms and luxury goods shops, must close.
The order, which also bans all non-essential travel “on foot, bicycle, scooter, automobile or public transit,” does not block people from taking walks (including walks for pets) as long as the six foot distance mandate is followed. People are also allowed to meet other “basic needs” like visit a doctor, shop for food, or assist others who need help during the crisis.
Though the mandate is a legal one, Scott said that for now, SFPD will take “a compassionate, common-sense approach.” However, he noted Monday that any violations of the order would be a misdemeanor. “We’re hoping for voluntary compliance,” Scott said, and citations would be issued “only as last resort.”
But while grocery stores or takeout and delivery are still available to residents during the shelter-in-place period, none of the officials assembled Monday encouraged trips outside the home unless there was no other option. “With everyone cooperating” and remaining home as much as possible, Colefax says, “we will be able to adjust” and “prevent [the spread of coronavirus} before it gets any worse.”
Officials, Breed said, are asking for “a change in behavior.” “It’s a new normal — temporarily,” Breed said, “in an effort to protect public health.”
On Monday morning, Breed’s office also announced the Workers and Families First Program, a $10 million funding pool intended to assist private sector workers, KPIX reports. As part of the program, the city will provide businesses that need it funding to offer up to five paid days of sick leave to their workers, in addition to any days the companies already provide. “We want everyone to know that staying home to take care of themselves and their families is the most important thing they can do, not only for their own health but also to slow the spread of this virus in our community,” Breed said.
According to Colefax, as of Monday morning, there are now 40 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in San Francisco. The first case in the city was diagnosed on March 5. The Bay Area county hardest hit by the virus is Santa Clara, which had 114 confirmed cases as of publication time.
The full message from Mayor London Breed’s office is below:
Mayor London N. Breed today announced that the Health Officer of the City and County of San Francisco has issued a Public Health Order requiring that residents remain in place, with the only exception being for essential needs. This measure is necessary to slow the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the community. The Order is effective as of midnight on Tuesday, March 17th and is effective until April 7th, 2020, or until it is extended.
“We know these measures will significantly disrupt people’s day to day lives, but they are absolutely necessary,” said Mayor Breed. “This is going to be a defining moment for our City and we all have a responsibility to do our part to protect our neighbors and slow the spread of this virus by staying at home unless it is absolutely essential to go outside. I want to encourage everyone to remain calm and emphasize that all essential needs will continue to be met. San Francisco has overcome big challenges before and we will do it again, together.”
The Order directs all residents to remain at their place of residence, except to conduct Essential Activities, Essential Businesses, and Essential Government Functions (defined below). When conducting an allowed activity, people must maintain at least 6 feet of social distancing from everyone other than household members.
All businesses, other than Essential Businesses and Essential Government Functions, are required to cease all operations. All public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a single family or living unit are prohibited, except for the exemptions listed below.
All travel, including but not limited to walking, biking, driving, or taking public transit is prohibited, except to perform Essential Activities, operate Essential Businesses, or to maintain Essential Government Functions. Individuals may go on a walk, get exercise, or take a pet outside to go to the bathroom, as long as at least six feet of social distancing is maintained.
People riding on public transit must maintain at least six feet of social distancing from other passengers. Homeless individuals are not subject to the shelter in place order but are encouraged to seek shelter, and the City will be working with the State, following up on the Governor’s announcement yesterday, to maximize available resources for the homeless population.
Essential Activities (exemptions to the shelter in place order) include:
• Tasks essential to maintain health and safety, such as obtaining medicine or seeing a doctor;
• Getting necessary services or supplies for themselves or their family or household members, such as getting food and supplies, pet food, and getting supplies necessary for staying at home;
• Engaging in outdoor activity, such as walking, hiking, or running provided that you maintain at least six feet of social distancing;
• Performing work providing essential services at an Essential Business or Essential Government function (defined below);
• Caring for a family member in another household;
• Caring for elderly, minors, dependents, persons with disabilities, or other vulnerable persons.
Exemptions. Individuals may leave their place of residence to:
1) Operate an Essential Business, which includes:
• Healthcare operations, including home health workers;
• Essential Infrastructure, including construction of housing and operation of public transportation and utilities;
• Grocery stores, farmers’ markets, food banks, convenience stores;
• Businesses that provide necessities of life for economically disadvantaged individuals and shelter facilities;
• Pharmacies, health care supply stores, and health care facilities;
• Gas stations and auto repair facilities;
• Garbage collection;
• Hardware stores, plumbers, electricians, and other service providers necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences and other essential businesses;
• Educational institutions, for the purposes of facilitating distance learning;
• Laundromats, dry cleaners, and laundry service providers;
• Businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food, and goods directly to residences;
• Childcare facilities providing services that enable essential employees to go to work;
• Roles required for any Essential Business to “maintain basic operations,” which include security, payroll, and similar activities.
2) Perform an Essential Government Function:
• This includes all services needed to ensure the continuing operation of the government agencies and provide for the health, safety and welfare of the public.
“As the coronavirus situation continues to change rapidly in our city and region, I want to make sure that all San Franciscans understand that we are entering a new phase in our response. Our response has been grounded in data, science, and facts,” said Dr. Grant Colfax, Director of Health. “Based on what we can predict, now is the time to do everything we can to prevent the situation from getting much worse in a matter of days or weeks. Every hour counts. We need and appreciate the cooperation of everyone who lives and works in San Francisco—and across the Bay Area—to act immediately.”
The Department of Public Health urges people not to rush to urgent care or emergency rooms for COVID-19 testing or non-emergency needs. Do not overwhelm the health system or the emergency response system at this time. We need it to care for those who are seriously ill. If you are otherwise sick or concerned you may have coronavirus, contact your health care provider.
The Department of Public Health has issued aggressive recommendations to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the community. The recommendations for social distancing are intended to disrupt the spread of the virus and protect community health. These are systemic as well as individual changes that will make a difference in people’s lives. Although the recommendations cause inconvenience, they are necessary and worthwhile to reduce the spread of the virus and interrupt its transmission from person to person.