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Governor's Shelter in Place Order

Good morning, California. It’s Friday, March 20.

“We’re not victims of fate”

Gov. Gavin Newsom at a press conference in the state capitol following the first COVID-19 death in California. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters
Gov. Gavin Newsom at a press conference following the first COVID-19 death in California. (Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters)

In the strictest response to the coronavirus pandemic in the United States so far, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered California’s 40 million people to shelter in place until further notice.

The order directs Californians to stay in their homes unless they are accessing essential services, such as pharmacies, grocery stores and banks. The governor emphasized that people will still be able to go outside, go to the grocery store and walk their dog — as long as they practice social distancing and keep 6 feet apart from people they don’t already live with.

Although the order carries the force of law and breaking it could result in a misdemeanor, Newsom didn’t seem to think enforcement would be necessary. Instead, he underscored the “social contract” binding Californians together and the “social pressure” that would help people “self-regulate their behavior.”

  • Newsom: “We are confident that the people of the state of California will abide by [the order], will do the right thing. They’ll meet this moment, they’ll step up as they have over the course of the last number of weeks to protect themselves, to protect their families and to protect the broader community in this great state and the world that we reside in. I have confidence in that.”

Newsom said a statewide shelter-in-place could “bend the curve” of coronavirus and reduce the number of people infected with COVID-19. Some models project that around 19,500 Californians will need to be hospitalized, which is above the state’s current hospital capacity.

But Newsom reiterated that Californians can “manipulate those numbers down” by taking swift and decisive action together.

  • “This is not a permanent state. This is a moment in time. And we will meet this moment together, and we will look back at these kinds of decisions as pivotal decisions. If we’re to be criticized at this moment, let us be criticized for taking this moment seriously. Let us be criticized for going full force and meeting the virus head-on.”

He added:

  • “We’re not victims of fate or circumstance. The future is something inside of us, it’s our decisions. And that’s why we decided today to make that decision.”

It’s still unclear what precisely the state considers “essential services.” We’ll keep you updated with more specifics about the order and its implications for Californians.