In what is the most restrictive move of its kind yet enacted in the country, earlier today officials from six counties in California’s Bay Area ordered residents to “shelter in place” for the next three weeks with the hopes of slowing the deadly coronavirus outbreak. Under the directive, the approximately 6.7 million people living in Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Alameda, Santa Clara and Contra Costa counties are required to not leave their homes “except for essential needs.” 

The public health order goes into effect at midnight tonight and will remain in place through April 7. San Francisco Mayor London Breed encouraged area residents to remain calm during the period. 

“Many people are calling this the new normal,” Mayor Breed said. “It’s the new normal, temporarily, in an effort to protect public health.”

[Below: San Francisco Mayor London Breed holds a press conference to announce the order.] 

More on the order from the San Francisco Chronicle

The order falls just short of a full lockdown, which would forbid people from leaving their homes without explicit permission, and it wasn’t immediately clear how, or to what degree, it would be enforced. The order calls for the sheriff or chief of police to “ensure compliance.” In Italy and other places that have instituted lockdowns, travel outside the home has been restricted without permission and police have been ordering people back home if they don’t have a reason to be in public. …

In the six Bay Area counties, non-essential gatherings of any size are now banned, along with non-essential travel “on foot, bicycle, scooter, automobile or public transit.” People may travel for shopping for necessary supplies, accessing health care, and providing aid to family and friends who need assistance, and for non-residents, returning to their home outside the Bay Area. Airports, taxis, and public transit — including BART — will remain operational, but only for essential travel and people are expected to keep six feet apart when possible.

People in the six counties will still be able to go shopping for items such as food and household supplies, and seek medical care. They will be able to go outside for walks or exercise as long as they keep six feet away from anyone they don’t already live with. People who are homeless are exempt from the order but encouraged to find shelter.