Written by Michelle Hunter (News Writer)
As of March 18th, 2020, Santa Cruz County has been ordered to stay home to prevent the spread of the known COVID-19 virus. The shelter in place requires citizens to stay at home and only go out if they really need to. The order is a legal order issued under the authority of California law. Everyone is required to comply, and it is a misdemeanor crime not to follow the order, punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and up to 90 days in jail.
Locations closed at this time include Dine-in restaurants, bars and nightclubs, entertainment venues, and fitness studios(gyms). Some things that will remain open are Police/Sheriff stations, fire stations, hospitals/clinics and healthcare operations, jails, garbage/sanitation, transportation, utilities (water, power, and gas) and most offices, Gas stations, Pharmacies, Grocery stores, farmers markets, food banks, convenience stores, and take-out and delivery restaurants.
The shelter in place was expected to be lifted April 7th, but will probably be extended to May 1st later this week according to Cindy Chavez, president of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. The orders from the Bay Area counties, which are all similarly worded, fall just short of a full lock-down, which would forbid people from leaving their homes without explicit permission. The order calls for the county, city sheriffs, and police chiefs to “ensure compliance,” and local authorities said they would not “rush to enforce” the directives as residents adjusted to understand what activities are no longer allowed. Violation of the orders is considered a misdemeanor punishable by a fine or jail time. Businesses that do not provide “essential” services must send workers home. The directive allows people to go outside and in fact, health officers encourage people to run, hike and walk their dogs, as long as they do it alone or with close family, and keep six feet away from others. Trails and parks are open, but people cannot gather in groups. Recreation centers and clubhouses are closed.
The reason for these precautions is because California saw a 14% increase in positive coronavirus cases over the weekend, with 335 reported cases and six deaths. The majority of the cases have been in the Bay Area: 40 in San Francisco, 138 in Santa Clara county and 120 more in the neighboring counties. Half of the state’s coronavirus deaths were in the Bay Area. Santa Cruz county accounts for many of the homeless, and being homeless how are they expected to follow the shelter in place? The order exempts the homeless from having to shelter-in-place but is urging them to find shelter. Government agencies are trying to provide it and Gavin Newsom, the Governor of California, said the state was working to procure hotels and motels for the homeless population living in encampments, as well as an additional 450 trailers. Remember to Stay safe!