Millions of people were left holed up in their homes under mandatory quarantine as San Francisco ordered a lockdown on Monday and seven Bay Area counties directed residents to “shelter in place.” More California cities and counties followed suit on Tuesday, and over on the East coast, Mayor Bill de Blasio is considering a similar order for New York City.
Monday’s “shelter in place” order requires some seven million residents in the Bay area to only leave home for “essential” reasons, the Associated Press reported. The lockdown order, which lasts for at least three weeks, is currently the most severe response in the United States as state and local governments race to curb the spread of COVID-19.
“It’s the new normal temporarily to protect public health,” San Francisco Mayor London Breed said at a news conference. “These measures will be disruptive to day to day life, but there is no need to panic.”
San Francisco locks down
California is among the hardest-hit states by the deadly coronavirus known as COVID-19, with over 600 cases and some 11 deaths as of late Tuesday. As Americans adjust to almost surreal disruptions to daily life, San Francisco is characteristically at the forefront of a social experiment.
Seven counties in the Bay Area and the cities of San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland will begin enforcing a “shelter in place” order on Tuesday that asks people to stay home unless necessary for “essential” activities until at least April 7. Essential activities include shopping for necessities, seeking health care, taking care of family members, and exercising. All residents are asked to maintain a six-foot distance from strangers. Read more here.
The order will impact the counties of San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Marin, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Alameda, and Contra Costa. The city of Davis and Sacramento and Monterey counties issued similar orders on Tuesday, and others are likely to follow suit.
What about San Francisco’s considerable homeless population? They are “encouraged to seek shelter” and the city “will be working with the State, following up on the Governor’s announcement yesterday, to maximize available resources for the homeless population.”
A glimpse of the future
San Francisco’s streets and highways were eerily empty Tuesday as the order took effect, the AP reported. The restrictions followed orders by the state’s governor, Gavin Newsom, to shutter bars, wineries, nightclubs, and restaurants across the state. Newsom has also called on people older than 65 and those with serious health problems to stay home. Los Angeles and San Diego counties, the state’s largest, have enacted similar closures.
The “shelter in place” orders are the most drastic step yet taken across America to “flatten the curve” and get control of the pandemic, the AP notes. It echoes lockdown orders now in place in hard-hit European countries like Italy, which has placed its entire population in quarantine.
San Francisco’s lockdown comes amid a series of less strict — but nevertheless dramatic — measures by various state and local governments, including sweeping closures of bars, restaurants and other public venues. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the Big Apple may follow San Francisco’s example within the next 48 hours, as New York City already moved to close its massive school system for a month and closed all bars and restaurants.
Life in America changes
The bans have changed the character of life in America in unprecedented ways, as people adjust to living at home, working from home, school closures, and stockpiling food and supplies from mobbed supermarkets. As Americans worry about catching the virus, losing their jobs or missing paychecks, the United States government finds itself on a wartime footing.
National Institutes of Health official Anthony Fauci has asked the Trump administration to consider a nationwide 14-day lockdown, but so far it has instead laid out a series of guidelines advising Americans to maintain “social distancing” and avoid crowds. The White House announced Tuesday that it is considering sending checks directly to Americans to help them weather the crisis, an idea floated already by Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT). This is a developing story.