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What a 'stay-at-home' order means during the coronavirus pandemic

Here's what you can and cannot do if your city or county has been ordered to shelter in place or stay at home.


With increasing concerns of community spread of the coronavirus [COVID-19], several cities and counties in California have already ordered or recommended people to “stay at home”. Many more regions are preparing to take the same precautions, including Sacramento County, which mandated a similar stay-at-home order on Thursday morning.

A stay-at-home order might seem obvious; It generally means stay at home and practice social distancing. 

However, failure to comply with an order is considered a misdemeanor, punishable by fine or even imprisonment, according to the California Health and Safety Code [CHSC].

For those who live in an area that has mandated or recommended residents to stay-at-home, here is what you need to know.

RELATED: Sacramento County residents ordered to stay at home to stop coronavirus spread

A stay-at-home order means that all non-essential travel is prohibited. You may be tempted to take the bus downtown or hop in the car to see some friends, but this could put others and yourself at risk. 

Activities that are considered “non-essential” include going to the gym, going to a nail salon or hairstylist, and going to bars or clubs. 

Seeking out these types of activities could mean that you are violating the shelter-in-place order. A more detailed list of what is acceptable and what is not during this time can be found here

As such, it may seem like your only option is to hole up at home, but many orders do allow for some exceptions. 

You may leave your home to get medical supplies or food, and the order even makes an exception for “outdoor activity.”

While practicing social distancing is essential, certain activities, such as walking, hiking, or running, are still allowed. This is important because getting outside and exercising is a key part of maintaining your mental health, especially in uncertain times such as these. 

RELATED: Online mental health resources to help you during isolation

If you live in an apartment complex or other community that uses shared spaces–such as laundry facilities, mail pick-up, or lobbies–you must make sure you are still practicing social distancing at all times. 

Did you know there are specific requirements for social distancing?

According to Yolo County’s shelter-in-place order, the requirements include “maintaining at least six-foot social distancing from other individuals, washing hands with soap and water for at least twenty seconds as frequently as possible or using hand sanitizer, covering coughs or sneezes (into the sleeve or elbow, not hands), regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces, and not shaking hands.”    

There is also strict enforcement for businesses. With the exception of essential businesses like grocery stores and pharmacies, all businesses within a shelter-in-place county are required to close their in-person facilities. If possible, those businesses should switch to working from home. 

As of now, law enforcement will be enforcing this order. It is important that you follow these guidelines in order to avoid a fine or prison time. It is more necessary now than ever to do your part and stay at home to keep our communities safe.

Coronavirus background

According to the CDC, coronavirus (COVID-19) is a family of viruses that is spreadable from person to person. Coronavirus is believed to have been first detected in a seafood market in Wuhan, China in December 2019. If someone is sick with coronavirus, the symptoms they may show include mild to severe respiratory illness, cough, and difficulty breathing.

Currently, there is no vaccine, however, the CDC suggests the following precautions, along with any other respiratory illness:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds.

The CDC also says facemasks should only be used by people who show symptoms of the virus. If you’re not sick, you do not have to wear a facemask. The CDC says the immediate risk to the U.S. public is low.

RELATED: Sacramento County residents ordered to shelter in place to stop coronavirus spread

RELATED: Shelter-in-place orders issued in five Northern California counties


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Sacramento County issues shelter-in-place order to prevent coronavirus spread | RAW

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