From Palm Springs to Napa, more than a dozen California cities and counties have been ordered to shelter-in-place this week, leaving many Angelenos to wonder: What does shelter-in-place mean—and will we be next?
The director of the Los Angeles County Health Department addressed the question head-on today, telling reporters it’s something she’s being asked repeatedly.
The answer is: We’re basically already there.
“Our guidance is very similar,” Dr. Barbara Ferrer said. “We’ve shut down pretty much everywhere you can go to socialize with large groups of people… We are asking everyone who can stay home, stay home.”
The big difference is that the Northern California shelter-in-place directives were issued as legally binding health orders. Residents who violate them can be cited for a misdemeanor.
The order issued in the city and county of San Francisco mandates that residents stay home, but it makes exceptions for essential activities, like picking up groceries and medicine, as well as outdoor exercise, including walking, hiking, and running.
California’s various shelter-in-place orders also stop short of the “lockdown” procedures implemented in some European cities.
Social distancing is the best tool we have to slow the spread of COVID-19. Here is a quick rundown of activities that are safe, activities to avoid, and activities where we recommend using caution. Let’s work together from far apart. #COVID19#novelcoronaviruspic.twitter.com/i0yiYgRrP4
— LA Public Health (@lapublichealth) March 17, 2020
While officials have pressed residents to stay home, they have stopped short of ordering it. Ferrer implored residents again today to limit their activities.
“Everyone should stay at home as much as possible,” she stressed today. “You should however feel free to take a walk, a hike, a run, just not with a group of people.”
Go to the grocery stores, she said, just try to avoid peak hours. Work from home, if you’re able. But taking nonessential trips and hanging out in groups threatens the entire Los Angeles community.
“Because we can not stop the spread of COVID-19, all of our strategists are aimed at slowing the spread. The slower the spread of the virus, the more we’re able to maintain the capacity of our essential healthcare system, this is what you often hear as ‘flattening the curve,’” said Ferrer. “The only opportunity we have to flatten that curve is everyone does all of the social distance we’re recommending.”