COVID-19 “Shelter in Place” Orders Issued for San Francisco Bay Area Counties

COVID-19 “Shelter in Place” Orders Issued for San Francisco Bay Area Counties

Public health officers in seven counties of the San Francisco Bay Area issued orders on March 16, 2020 directing residents to shelter in place for three weeks and avoid all non-essential travel and business activities to limit the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus as much as possible. The orders take effect at midnight on March 17, 2020 and are scheduled to last through April 7, 2020 unless otherwise modified.

The orders apply to residents of the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz. See hyperlinks for each county’s specific public health order and FAQs.

Broadly, the shelter-in-place orders direct residents of each county to stay in their residences as much as possible, leaving only for Essential Activities, Essential Governmental Functions, or to operate Essential Businesses as these terms are defined in the orders.

All businesses, except Essential Businesses, are required to cease all activities except Minimum Business Operations. However, non-essential businesses may continue operations consisting exclusively of employees or contractors performing activities at their own residences (i.e., working from home).

  • Essential Activities: people may leave their residences to ensure their health and safety and that of their families; to engage in outdoor activity that does not involve close contact with other people; to obtain services and supplies for themselves and their families; and for employment purposes specifically permitted by the Order.

  • Essential Businesses: in addition to Healthcare Operations, Essential Infrastructure, first responders, court personnel, and law enforcement, the following types of businesses are considered essential and may remain open:
    • Grocery stores, farmers’ markets, food banks, convenience stores, etc.
    • News media
    • Gas stations, auto repair, and auto supply facilities
    • Banks and related financial institutions
    • Hardware stores
    • Plumbers, electricians, exterminators and similar service providers
    • Businesses providing mailing and shipping services, including post office boxes
    • Laundromats, dry cleaners and laundry service providers
    • Restaurants and other facilities that prepare and serve food—for delivery or carry-out only
    • Businesses supplying products needed for people to work from home
    • Businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food, goods or services directly to residences
    • Airlines, taxis and other private transportation providers necessary for Essential Activities and other purposes authorized by the Order
    • Residential facilities, shelters and home-based care for seniors, adults and children
    • Professional services such as legal and accounting services when necessary to assist in compliance with legally-mandated activities
    • Childcare facilities under certain conditions
    • Veterinary hospitals and clinics

Non-essential businesses may only perform the following Minimum Business Operations in person, subject to Social Distancing Requirements:

  • The minimum necessary activities to maintain the value of the business’s inventory, ensure security, process payroll and employee benefits, and related functions;
  • The minimum necessary activities to facilitate employees of the business being able to continue to work remotely from their residences.

Social Distancing Requirements include:

  • Maintaining at least six feet of social distancing from other individuals
  • Washing hands with soap and water for at least twenty seconds as frequently as possible or using hand sanitizer
  • Covering coughs and sneezes (into the sleeve or elbow, not hands)
  • Regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces
  • Not shaking hands

These county-specific orders are in addition to the state of emergency declared on March 4, 2020 by California Governor Gavin Newsom and the directive of March 15, 2020 for persons over age 65 and those with heightened risk of serious illness from COVID-19 to self-isolate. Employers should continue to follow federal, state and local guidance issued by the relevant authorities as this situation develops.

The California Labor Commissioner’s FAQs about the coronavirus and the use of paid sick leave can be found here.

For more information, please feel free to contact Christy Kotowski at [email protected] or any other member of the Outside GC team, or visit our website’s Contact Us page. 


Christy Kotowski joined Outside GC’s California team as Senior Counsel in 2019. Based in San Francisco, Christy handles a broad range of complex workplace issues at the federal, state and local levels. Previously, she worked as in-house employment counsel for several large companies, and started her legal career in the Silicon Valley office of Morrison & Foerster, one of California’s oldest and largest law firms. She can be reached at [email protected] or 510-748-0930.

This publication should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances not an offer to represent you. It is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only, and you are urged to consult your attorney concerning any particular situation and any specific legal questions you may have. Pursuant to applicable rules of professional conduct, portions of this publication may constitute Attorney Advertising.

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