New day, new rules: Everything to know about California's confusing new stay-at-home order

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ByAlix Martichoux KGO logo
Friday, December 18, 2020
Gov. Newsom announces new, regional stay-at-home order in California
Newsom announced a regional stay-at-home order as an "emergency brake" to curb the rampant spread of COVID-19 in California.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- We're in the middle of the worst coronavirus surge California has seen so far, and the state is making moves to shut back down again. This stay-at-home order is like the one we had in March in spirit, but it's substantially different when it comes to exactly what can and can't be open.

The stay-at-home order is admittedly confusing, so we're doing our best to clear it up for you. Keep reading for everything you need to know about the new shutdown rules.

Who has to shut down?

The state is split into five regions: Northern California, Greater Sacramento, Bay Area, San Joaquin Valley and Southern California. The region has to abide by stay-at-home restrictions once ICU capacity in the region drops below 15%.

Some counties are also moving ahead of the state's timeline and shutting down voluntarily. See the map below for details on your county. Every county in blue is under a stay-at-home order.

MAP: CA counties that can, can't reopen under new rules

For a better experience, click here to view the full map in a new window

How long will the stay-at-home order last?

The state requires the stay-at-home order to last at least three weeks. Some counties are choosing to shut down for longer than that. Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco and Santa Clara counties, for example, are enforcing stay-at-home orders through Jan. 4, 2021.

What businesses have to shut down under the stay-at-home order?

Almost all non-essential businesses are forced to shut down, with an exception for retail stores. Hair salons, barbershops, nail salons and other personal care services all have to cease operations, both indoors and outdoors. Movie theaters, museums, zoos, bars, wineries, cardrooms, amusement parks and family entertainment services (like bowling alleys, laser tag, mini golf, etc.) all have to shut down. Offices (outside of critical infrastructure) should only do remote work wherever possible.

Can restaurants stay open?

Restaurants can only stay open for takeout or delivery. Indoor and outdoor dining are both banned.

Are social gatherings allowed? Can I see friends, family or my social bubble?

No. Private gatherings of any size, indoor and outdoor, are not allowed. You're only supposed to spend time with members of your household, including over the holidays.

"You should not meet in person with anyone you do not live with. Even in a small group, and even outdoors with precautions," said Berkeley's Dr. Lisa Hernandez. "If you have a social bubble, it is now popped."

Can stores stay open?

Yes, retail stores can stay open at a reduced 20% capacity. Malls can also stay open at 20% capacity.

Do grocery stores also have to operate at 20% capacity?

Grocery stores can operate at a slightly higher capacity: 35%.

If "essential infrastructure" can stay open, what does that mean?

"Workers manufacturing or providing parts and equipment that enable the maintenance and continued operation of essential businesses and facilities are considered essential," the California Department of Public Health told ABC7 News. A full list of essential work can be found here.

Can schools stay open?

Schools that have already received a waiver to reopen before the stay-at-home order can continue to do in-person learning.

What's the deal with playgrounds?

Originally, outdoor playgrounds were forced to close under the stay-at-home order. That upset some parents and lawmakers who argued playgrounds are some kids' only opportunity to play outside and burn off steam, especially in urban settings. On Wednesday, the state updated its guidelines to allow playgrounds to stay open as essential: "Playgrounds may remain open to facilitate physically distanced personal health and wellness through outdoor exercise."

Going into the winter holidays, how does this affect places of worship?

Churches and other places of worship can only host outdoor services.

How does this affect professional sports?

Professional sports can continue without live audiences, according to the state's guidelines. Santa Clara County has opted for stricter rules, resulting in the 49ers temporarily moving to Arizona to play their games.

What about youth and recreational sports?

Youth and adult recreational sports are both on hold until Jan. 25 at the earliest. After that, the sports allowed will be based on your county's tier. See the full guidelines here.

How does the stay-at-home order affect travel? How will it be enforced?

All non-essential travel is explicitly banned in regions under the stay-at-home order. However, the state is asking all Californians to stop traveling, even if your region isn't under a stay-at-home order. Hotels and other lodging won't be able to accept out-of-state reservations for any non-essential travel.

When asked about enforcement, the California Department of Public Health said, "All Californians are being asked to follow this order to protect themselves, their families, and their communities."

What else can stay open?

Non-urgent medical offices, like dentists, optometrists, etc., can stay open. Childcare and pre-K facilities can all stay open. Outdoor recreational facilities, like tennis and basketball courts, and hiking trails can stay open. (Campgrounds won't allow overnight stays.) "Entertainment production" can also continue.

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