The city of San Francisco is the first in the United States to implement drastic measures similar to those taken in Italy to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The entire city and surrounding area is essentially on lockdown, and people have been told to not leave their homes unless necessary for the coming weeks.
On Monday night, Northern California lawmakers told the public that they will need to shelter in place and only leave their homes for essential needs. The entire Bay Area near the major cities of San Francisco and Oakland will be affected by this order, which includes about 7 million people. They told residents that these restrictions will go into place as of midnight and remain until April 7th. The counties under restriction include Santa Clara, San Francisco, Marin, San Mateo, Alameda, and Contra Costa.
Mayor Breed told the public that he knows their day to day lives will be severely affected, but claims that the measures are still absolutely necessary. He also said that this was a defining moment for the city, and that everyone needs to do their part by remaining at home.
The order further explains that people can leave their homes in limited situations. However, they must all remain at least six feet apart from each other while in public. A health officer was quoted as saying that he still expects to see people outside either alone or in small groups with the proper distance between each other, even for routine tasks such as walking dogs.
Most businesses will be essentially shut down by this order. Grocery stores, pharmacies, and a few other essential kinds of businesses will still be able to remain open. Restaurants will be allowed to take orders for delivery and take out. Officials also claim that even though the order sounds restrictive, people will not necessarily be totally confined to their homes. Travel is also affected, as people who are returning from other destinations may automatically violate the order.
The chief of San Francisco’s police said that they would be taking a commonsense approach to enforcement to avoid additional problems. However, he did mention that violators could be charged with a criminal misdemeanor as a last resort. Because this is a new kind of restriction, it remains to be seen how officers will actually behave on the streets when given this authority.
The measures were taken at least in part because the Bay Area seems to be producing most of the state of California’s coronavirus cases. Out of approximately 500 confirmed cases in the entire state, more than half are in the San Francisco area, despite the fact that the Los Angeles metro area is geographically larger and contains more people.
Local officials remained confident that people will still be able to conduct most of their normal business, as long as it does not involve groups or close contact with others outside.
Emergency government powers
The virus is creating a situation where emergency powers in state, local, and national governments are being used in a way not seen in recent history. Governments do have the power to shut down normal operations and affect the population during times of war or other serious emergencies, and it seems that this authority is being fully utilized to prevent further outbreaks and accidents.