COVID-19: Bay Area Requires All 7 Million Residents To Shelter In Place

The Castro Theatre in San Fransico has a marquee announcing that they are closed due to a statewide ordinance | Getty Images

The Castro Theatre in San Fransico has a marquee announcing that they are closed due to a statewide ordinance | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

OAKLAND — The San Francisco Bay Area is locking down for the next three weeks.

Six Bay Area counties will direct nearly 7 million residents to shelter in place through April 7 in the most drastic effort yet in the U.S. to contain the spread of coronavirus and forestall health systems becoming overwhelmed with new cases.


The orders will encompass Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, and authorities are counting on Californians to comply without being compelled by enforcement. County health officials convened over the weekend and concluded the orders were necessary to try and slow the pandemic, San Francisco Department of Public Health Director Grant Colfax said.

Vital businesses like grocery stores, banks and pharmacies will remain open, San Francisco Mayor London Breed said, and indispensable government services will continue. While bars were slated to close at midnight, restaurants will still fill takeout orders.

“These measures will be disruptive to day-to-day life but there is no need to panic,” Breed said at a Monday press conference. “Your garbage will be picked up, police officers will be out there on the front line.”

San Francisco Police Chief William Scott said that, while violating the restrictions is enforceable as a misdemeanor, that type of measure would be “an absolute last resort.”

“We’re looking for voluntary compliance,” Scott said, adding that “this is not about a criminal justice approach to a public health issue.”

In Santa Clara County, the epicenter of California’s coronavirus outbreak, Bay Area leaders convened to announce their regional approach to locking down social activity. The six Bay Area counties have had 273 confirmed cases of coronavirus, though testing is still not widely available.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo called the crisis “our generation’s great test.”

“We must move aggressively and immediately,” Liccardo said. “The time for half measures is over and history will not forgive us for waiting an hour more.”

Sara Cody, Santa Clara County health officer, said a regional approach was essential. Cody led the state and nation on imposing social restrictions, first by recommending no gatherings with 1,000 people or more, than by enforcing that ban a week ago. She subsequently tightened rules in her county, including last Friday when she banned gatherings of 100 people.

“I recognize that this is unprecedented and if I had thought last Friday’s announcement was hard, this one is exponentially harder,” she said. “But we must come together to do this.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti late Sunday ordered restaurants to shift to takeout and delivery only. He also shut down bars, gyms, movie theaters, bowling alleys and other indoor entertainment facilities.

President Donald Trump on Monday recommended cancellation of gatherings with 10 or more people, as well as closure of facilities along the lines of what Garcetti targeted Sunday — all for the next 15 days. He also recommended cancellation of discretionary travel.

On Sunday, Gov. Gavin Newsom directed more than 5.3 million elderly Californians and those with existing health conditions to self-isolate at home. Newsom also ordered bars to close and restaurants to restrict the number of customers they serve.

In going significantly further than that, Bay Area leaders are acknowledging the risk to one of California’s main population centers that is also the state’s economic powerhouse in the modern tech era. The restrictions are expected to include Santa Clara County, which has been the epicenter of new infections in California and is the heart of the Silicon Valley.