What Does 'Shelter-In-Place' Mean During a Pandemic?

By R.J. Johnson - @rickerthewriter

March 18, 2020


With more than 6,500 cases of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, confirmed in the United States, officials and leaders across the country are increasingly looking at asking the public to 'shelter-in-place' in hopes of further curbing the spread of the disease.

Sheltering in place has already become the reality for nearly 7 million people living in Northern California, and New York City Mayor Bill deBlasio warned on Tuesday that New Yorkers could soon be asked to 'shelter-in-place' amid the rapidly spreading outbreak there. Italy, which has seen a severe outbreak of the virus, has essentially placed the entire country on lockdown and set a 6 p.m. curfew.

However, for many, the idea of 'shelter-in-place' is vague, with many people uncertain what they'd be allowed to do and not allowed to do in case local officials ask them to stay home. The 'shelter-in-place' order for San Francisco residents, includes several exemptions for residents.

For example, residents in San Francisco are currently allowed:

  • To engage in activities or perform tasks essential to their health and safety, or to the health and safety of their family or household members (including, but not limited to, pets), such as, by way of example only and without limitation, obtaining medical supplies or medication, visiting a health care professional, or obtaining supplies they need to work from home.
  • To obtain necessary services or supplies for themselves and their family or household members, or to deliver those services or supplies to others, such as, by way of example only and without limitation, canned food, dry goods, fresh fruits and vegetables, pet supply, fresh meats, fish, and poultry, and any other household consumer products, and products necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences.
  • To engage in outdoor activity, provided the individuals comply with Social Distancing Requirements as defined in this Section, such as, by way of example and without limitation, walking, hiking, or running.
  • To perform work providing essential products and services at an Essential Business or to otherwise carry out activities specifically permitted in this Order, including Minimum Basic Operations.
  • To care for a family member or pet in another household.

Individuals are also allowed to leave their homes to work or obtain services at hospitals, clinics, dentists and pharmacies. Exceptions have also been made for employees who work for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.

However, the order doesn't allow people to go to gyms or similar facilities, which have been shut down by California Gov. Gavin Newsom amid the state's outbreak.

The shelter-in-place also contains several exceptions for workers employers who defined as an 'essential businesses and service.'

These jobs include:

  • Healthcare Operations and Essential Infrastructure;
  • Grocery stores, certified farmers’ markets, farm and produce stands, supermarkets, food banks, convenience stores, and other establishments engaged in the retail sale of canned food, dry goods, fresh fruits and vegetables, pet supply, fresh meats, fish, and poultry, and any other household consumer products (such as cleaning and personal care products). This includes stores that sell groceries and also sell other non-grocery products, and products necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences;
  • Food cultivation, including farming, livestock, and fishing; City and County of Department of Public Health San Francisco Order of the Health Officer.
  • Businesses that provide food, shelter, and social services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals;
  • Newspapers, television, radio, and other media services;
  • Gas stations and auto-supply, auto-repair, and related facilities;
  • Banks and related financial institutions;
  • Hardware stores;
  • Plumbers, electricians, exterminators, and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences,
  • Businesses providing mailing and shipping services, including post office boxes;
  • Educational institutions—including public and private K-12 schools, colleges, and universities—for purposes of facilitating distance learning or performing essential functions, provided that social distancing of six-feet per person is maintained to the greatest extent possible;
  • Laundromats, dry cleaners, and laundry service providers;
  • Restaurants and other facilities that prepare and serve food, but only for delivery or carry out. Schools and other entities that typically provide free food services to students or members of the public may continue to do so under this Order on the condition that the food is provided to students or members of the public on a pick-up and takeaway basis only. Schools and other entities that provide food services under this exemption shall not permit the food to be eaten at the site where it is provided, or at any other gathering site;
  • Businesses that supply products needed for people to work from home;
  • Businesses that supply other essential businesses with the support or supplies necessary to operate.

As state and local governments continue to take aggressive action against the spread of the coronavirus, it's a good idea to pay attention to your local authorities to learn what a possible 'shelter-in-place' order could look like in your area. The important thing to remember is to not panic, wash your hands, and prevent the spread of misinformation.

To keep up to date on the latest news about the coronavirus and to understand what you need to stay safe and healthy, check out the Coronavirus: Fact vs Fiction podcast from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Photo: Getty Images

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