Coronavirus: Everything to know about San Francisco Bay Area's shelter-in-place order

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Saturday, June 6, 2020
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SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- UPDATE: The Bay Area counties are constantly amending their stay-at-home orders to reopen or dial back reopenings. For the latest, find full COVID-19 coverage here.

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Nearly 40 million Californians were required to stay home and limit social interaction until further notice when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a stay-at-home order on March 19.

RELATED: Everything you need to know about California's shelter at home order

The unprecedented action was an effort to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The statewide order followed similar action in the San Francisco Bay Area -- where residents in six counties, and later all nine, were told to shelter-in-place starting March 17 to slow the spread of the virus. Solano County was the final Bay Area county to join the regional shelter order.

RELATED: 6 Bay Area counties extend shelter-in-place orders through end of May

The public health order, both in the Bay Area and statewide, limited residents' travel, mandated social distancing and substantially limited public and private gatherings. All non-essential travel is prohibited, based on the order.

Social distancing requirements mandate a six-foot distance between others, frequent hand washing, using hand sanitizer, covering coughs and sneezes, cleaning surfaces and not shaking hands with others.

CORONAVIRUS IN CALIFORNIA: Get resources and information about COVID-19

Here are the highlights of the Bay Area's shelter-in-place order.

Where is this order in effect?

The shelter-in-place order is in effect in the state of California.

For the full Bay Area order, click here.

For the Newsom's statewide order, click here.

Can I leave my home?

Californians were originally only allowed to leave their homes for "essential" services, activities and work only, according to the order. As more sectors of the economy are allowed to reopen, Californians are allowed to leave their home for more reasons, but are encouraged to stay home if they are feeling sick.

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

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
  • "Providers that enable residential transactions" (like notaries, title companies, and real estate agencies)
  • Funeral homes and cemeteries
  • Moving companies
  • Rental car companies
  • Rideshare services

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 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.

What's allowed to reopen?

On April 29, most Bay Area counties loosened rules to allow construction and some outdoor activities to resume starting May 4:

  • All construction projects will be allowed to resume as long as the project complies with safety protocols included with the order.
  • All real estate transactions will also now be able to resume, but with continued restrictions on open houses and limitations on in-person viewings
  • Any employee allowed to return to work at a facility can also access childcare programs that can operate.
  • Certain outdoor businesses can also begin operating again, and people can visit those businesses to perform work or obtain goods, services, or supplies. This includes wholesale and retail nurseries, landscapers, gardeners, and other businesses that primarily provide outdoor services as set forth in the order. Outdoor businesses do not include restaurants, cafes or bars, regardless of whether they have outdoor seating.
  • Residential moves can resume
  • The use of some shared outdoor recreational areas that were previously ordered to close like skate parks. Facilities that involve shared equipment or physical contact do not apply.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced modifications to the statewide stay-at-home order on May 12 to allow more businesses in California to reopen amid the coronavirus crisis, including dine-in restaurants, shopping malls and offices. See his new guidelines here.

By May 22, all Bay Area counties allow for the reopening of:

  • Retail (for curbside pickup)
  • Manufacturing
  • Logistics
  • Childcare facilities
  • Offices where people can't telework
  • Car washes
  • Pet groomers
  • Landscapers
  • Outdoor museums

Earlier updated orders:

Bay Area counties have been moving at their own pace to reopen restaurants, hair salons, barbershops and other higher-risk businesses. See San Francisco's reopening timeline here.

As of June 19, all Bay Area counties were allowing outdoor dining at restaurants.

Hair salons reopened in Contra Costa, Napa, San Mateo, Solano and Sonoma counties.

Napa, San Mateo, Solano and Sonoma counties also allowed nail salons to reopen on June 19.

Can I see my friends?

The only counties explicitly allowing for socializing with people outside your household are Alameda and San Mateo counties. Starting June 8, residents of Alameda County are allowed to form "social bubbles" of 12 people or fewer. See the details here.

What is the impact on transit?


Ridership has plunged during the stay at home order, so Muni will stop subway and light rail service and has cut many bus lines. As Muni adapts its bus service based on need and safety, get the latest info from the agency's website.


BART has cut service hours and reduced train frequency. See the latest service advisories on the agency's website.

AC Transit

AC Transit is running reduced bus service and has cut nearly all transbay service. Buses are only letting on limited numbers of passengers and not collecting fares. Read the latest on AC Transit service here.


South Bay's VTA temporarily suspended light rail service after an employee tested positive for COVID-19, but since resumed weekday service. VTA is running a reduced bus service, as well. The agency is not collecting fares at this time. See the latest updates on operation here.

Bay Bridge

The Bay Bridge is no longer taking cash payments, at least for the time being. If you don't have a FasTrak, it's OK. You can still drive across the toll plaza and will receive your bill in the mail instead of paying cash at the window.

This Saturday, March 21, 2020 image shows a sign at the Bay Bridge toll plaza in San Francisco that says "No cash. Check mail for bills."
This Saturday, March 21, 2020 image shows a sign at the Bay Bridge toll plaza in San Francisco that says "No cash. Check mail for bills."

Instead of congestion pricing, where tolls vary from $5 to $7, the toll will be a flat $6 at all times of day starting on April 23. Three-person carpool and qualifying clean air cars will still only pay $3. Details here.

Golden Gate Ferry

Weekend service is canceled on the Golden Gate Ferry.

The ferry has also made scheduling changes due to low ridership. For a full list of changes to the Golden Gate Ferry and Transit systems, click here.

San Francisco Bay Ferry

See the reduced schedule here.

Tourists and residents are asked to not use the ferry for recreational purposes.


Caltrain cut weekday service by about half. See the latest service advisories at the agency's website.


The Sonoma-Marin Rail Transit has canceled all weekend and some weekday service. Check here for updates.

If you have a question or comment about the coronavirus pandemic, submit yours via the form below or here.

Get the latest news, information and videos about the novel coronavirus pandemic here