COVID-19 freeway
A COVID-19 freeway sign. Courtesy OnScene.TV

Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statewide order Thursday evening for people to stay at home, with the directive going into effect immediately.

Newsom said the order is mandatory. However, those who work in critical sectors should go to work, and grocery stores, pharmacies, banks and more will stay open.

The restriction comes after several California counties this week ordered residents to shelter in place or shelter at home.

What does that mean amid the coronavirus crisis? Different things in different areas, so far, but no reason to think that people will be locked down in their houses. There have been exceptions for leaving the house for essential needs and even exercise.

In San Luis Obispo, where residents were ordered Wednesday to shelter at home, County Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein said the order is intended to limit activity, travel, and business functions to the most basic and essential needs.

“Using the term shelter at home is to ask people to help slow the spread of infection and is an enhancement of social distancing,” she said. “It does not literally mean that people should not leave their homes for essential activities or fresh air and exercise.”

In the Bay Area, where some 7 million residents spread across six counties were ordered Monday to shelter in place through April 7, public health officials say vulnerable populations — particularly senior citizens age 65 and older — must stay at home.

“Everyone else is required to stay home except to get food, care for a relative or friend, get necessary health care, or go to an essential job. It is OK to go outside for walks or bike rides if you are not in a group. Stay at least 6 feet apart when leaving your home for essential activities,” authorities said.

Other rules include banning gatherings of more than 10 people and the closure of non-essential businesses.

Officials in Sacramento and Los Angeles counties have stopped short a shelter in place order while imposing restrictions and telling residents to stay at home as much as possible.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said during a briefing Wednesday that terms like shelter in place and lockdown should not be used.

“Shelter in place refers to stopping where you are, usually almost not at home,” he said. “Lockdown refers to people literally not being able to leave their home or where they are.”

One thing for certain is that when officials outline what the new restrictions mean, residents should listen to instructions and act accordingly.

Sometimes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the best way to stay safe in an emergency is to get inside and stay inside until authorities say it’s safe to leave.

— Staff report

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