Coronavirus California: Everything to know about stay at home order

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- California ordered nearly all residents to stay home and limit social interaction until further notice to try to slow the spread of COVID-19. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the statewide order on March 19.

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"This is a moment where we need some straight talk and we need to tell people the truth," Newsom said. "We need to bend the curve in the state of California and in order to do that -- we need to recognize reality."

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California released new guidelines May 12 to lay the groundwork for reopening dine-in restaurants, shopping malls and office buildings as part of Phase 2 of reopening the economy. Since then, the state has announced more businesses allowed to reopen. However, counties are allowed to move slower in reopening, based on local COVID-19 conditions.

Where is this order in effect?


The order for the entire state impacts 40 million people in California, including San Bernardino, Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside, Kern, Santa Clara, San Francisco, San Mateo, Marin, Contra Costa, Alameda, Sonoma Kern and Fresno counties.

Read Executive Order N-33-20 here.

Can I leave my home?


At first, everyone was required to stay home except to get food, care for a relative or friend, get necessary health care, or go to an essential job. Starting in May, state and local officials began to slowly roll back some restrictions. (See more below.)

If you go out, officials say you need to keep at least 6 feet of distance.

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Governments around the country are looking at ways to curb the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus. One way is to institute a shelter-in-place-order. But what does that mean and how does it work? We broke it down for you.



What is considered an 'essential activity?'



  • Tasks vital to health and safety - including: Gathering medical supplies, medication, items needed to work from home

  • Gathering household items, food and cleaning products

  • Outdoor activity is allowed -- but residents must comply with social distancing requirements

  • Caring for a family member or pet

  • Performing work for an essential business

That includes working in a healthcare, infrastructure, emergency responder capacities such as:

  • Hospitals, clinics, dentists, pharmacies, pharmaceutical, biotechnology companies, other healthcare facilities, healthcare suppliers, home healthcare services providers, mental health providers, ancillary healthcare services and veterinary facilities that care for animals

  • Airports, water, sewer, gas, electrical, oil refining, roads and highways, public transportation, solid waste collection and removal, internet, and telecommunications systems

  • Dispatchers, emergency responders, court personnel, law enforcement personnel

On April 22, Gov. Newsom announced Californians would also be allowed to start scheduling essential surgeries once again, effective immediately. (Read more here.)

What are permitted non-essential activities?'


Californians are still allowed - and encouraged - to get outside for fresh air and exercise. Park and beach closures vary at the local level, but the state is updating a running list of permitted outdoor activities, which can be found here. A few examples of permitted BMX biking, canoeing, cycling, rock climbing, crabbing, trampolining and walking the dog. See the full list of varied activities on the California COVID-19 website.

What is considered an 'essential business?'



  • Healthcare

  • Infrastructure

  • Grocery stores, farmers markets, foodbanks and produce stands

  • Farming, livestock and fishing


  • Business that provide shelter, social services and food for those in need

  • Newspapers, television, radio and other media

  • Gas stations, auto supply and repair facilities

  • Banks and financial institutions

  • Hardware stores

  • Plumbers, electricians, exterminators and those who provide safety and sanitation services at homes

  • Mailing and shipping businesses

  • Laundromats and dry cleaners

  • Restaurants -- only for delivery or take out

  • Businesses that delivery or ship food or groceries

  • Home care for seniors, adults and kids

  • Legal and accounting services

  • Childcare -- must be groups of 12 or fewer kids

What is considered 'essential travel?'


  • Travel related to essential activities

  • Travel to care for elderly, children, minors, those with disabilities or other "vulnerable" people

  • Travel to schools or universities to receive meals

  • Travel to home residence from an outside area

  • Travel required by law or court order

What non-essential businesses can operate?


Starting May 8, the state is allowing retail businesses to open for curbside pickup. Manufacturing and logistics work can also resume. Across all sectors, businesses need to follow new safety guidelines in order to reopen. Read more here.

Starting May 12, the state was also allowing some counties to reopen dine-in restaurants, office buildings and schools. But in order for a county to reopen those sectors, they have to prove to the state the spread of COVID-19 is under control locally. (Read more here.)

Since then, Gov. Newsom has continued to add to the list of sectors allowed to reopen. See them all here.

Note that local guidelines may be stricter or more lax.

What happens if I don't follow the shelter order?


"Violation of or failure to comply with this Order is a misdemeanor punishable by fine, imprisonment, or both. (California Health and Safety Code 120295, et seq,)" the order reads.

When does the shelter-in-place order end?


There's no precise end date at this time. Gov. Newsom says he'll evaluate the state's progress on six criteria before allowing the state to fully reopen.

  • Expand testing and doing contact tracing for those who test positive

  • Being able to protect California's most vulnerable populations, including seniors, homeless individuals and those with compromised immunity

  • Ensuring medical facilities are equipped to handle potential surges


  • Working with research hospitals and other research partners to pursue therapies for the virus

  • Making sure businesses, schools, and other public spaces can continue physical distancing

  • Being able to return to more strict measures, as needed

Read more on Newsom's plan to reopen California here.

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