Some 6.7 million residents living in the Bay Area have been ordered to stay at home and “shelter in place” as California gears up for what looks to be a massive lockdown designed to curb the spread of the dreaded coronavirus.
The drastic move? – similar to the steps taken by Italy, Spain and China ?—was announced by California governor Gavin Newsom on Monday, following a 14 percent increase in positive coronavirus infections in the state.
“The directive coming out of the Bay Area is no gatherings, which just makes sense to me at this point. So directing that no gatherings be considered, advanced in this state, that’s the new guideline we’re putting out this evening as well, and we think it’s very rational under these circumstances. Disruptive, I know, for some, but rational, we believe, at this moment,” Newsom said during the announcement, which was broadcast on his Facebook page.
Newsom, who in an earlier press conference said he has had “very favorable” conversations with President Donald Trump regarding support for California’s COVID-19 response, also announced that he has directed the California National Guard to “to be prepared to perform humanitarian missions across the state including food distribution, ensuring [the] resiliency of supply lines, as well as supporting public safety as required.”
According to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard, California has around 700 confirmed cases and 12 deaths – 326 of the infected are confirmed to the Bay Area.
California’s “shelter-in-place” order, which covers San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Marin, Contra Costa and Alameda, is the first of its kind to be implemented in the United States. According to San Francisco Mayor London Breed, this ordinance will be the “new normal.” (Related: San Francisco expecting possible influx of coronavirus cases, hospitals now preparing “surge tents.”)
“Many people are calling this the new normal. It’s the new normal, temporarily, in an effort to protect public health. These measures will be disruptive to day-to-day life. But there is no need to panic,” Breed said in a statement.
Despite the seemingly dire pronouncement, however, Breed says Bay Area residents? – and all those covered by the ordinance? – don’t have anything to fear.
“The time now is not to panic. It’s for us to come together. It’s for us to follow the directives. It’s to do everything in our respective capacities to prevent the spread of coronavirus so we can get past this very challenging time,” Breed said in a news conference.
According to Breed, grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and other “essential businesses” would remain open, while municipal services such as garbage collection will continue. Restaurants will remain open as well for the duration of the lockdown, provided that they only serve takeout.
Non-essential businesses, however, such as fitness gyms and bars will be closed.
As per the shelter-in-place directive, residents are still allowed to go outside their homes to perform “essential tasks” such as picking up the groceries or dropping off their laundry and visit their healthcare providers provided that they follow recently-imposed social distancing requirements? – markedly different from the impositions enacted by the Chinese and Italian governments.
The elderly and those who have compromised immune systems, however, are urged to stay indoors.
“With this order in place, you will still be able to get food, care for relatives, run necessary errands and conduct the essential parts of your life,” Grant Colfax, the director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, said.
In addition to the shelter-in-place directive, California legislators have also put in place two bills that will provide emergency funding for California’s coronavirus response, of which $1 billion will be used to expand capacity in California hospitals and other health care facilities, as well as secure hotel and motel rooms to shelter homeless Californians, while $100 million will be used to fund school disinfections.
As of this writing, 196,979 have been confirmed to be infected by the coronavirus, while 7,902 have been confirmed dead.