Coronavirus Restrictions: What Is a Stay-at-Home Order?


The unprecedented spread of coronavirus is prompting shelter-in-place and stay-at-home orders around the country.

On Wednesday, 16 state orders will take effect, calling on more than 40% of the US population to stay at home, according to CNN.

Although the concept may seem obvious enough, many people have questions regarding exactly what locations and activities they are limited to under these directives.

While the particulars vary from region to region, here is a breakdown of where you can go and what you can do under a stay-at-home order.

Can I go outside?

It’s true that the purpose of stay-at-home orders is to curb the spread of Covid-19 by reducing interactions between residents.

But people are generally still allowed to leave their homes to conduct tasks necessary for the health and safety of their families while they shelter in place.

Which activities are considered essential? They include buying groceries, going for a run, walking your dog, picking up prescriptions, going to a doctor or purchasing supplies you may need to work from home.

During the announcement of his order last week, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker said, "You'll still be able to go running and hiking and walk your dog." He added, "Many, many people will still go to work."

What is considered an essential business?

To prevent the spread of coronavirus, many orders mandate the closure of non-essential businesses, with the employees of these companies required to stay home.

Businesses considered “essential” during a public emergency are defined by federal guidelines as those vital to infrastructure.

In general, they include grocery stores and food production, pharmacies, health care, utilities, shipping, banking, other governmental services, law enforcement, emergency personnel and journalists.

Non-essential businesses, conversely, are those that are recreational in nature. These may include theaters, restaurants, bars, gyms, museums, casinos, malls and bowling alleys, many of which have already been ordered closed in the US.

How are these orders enforced?

While many orders have been issued in haste in attempts to curb the spread of local outbreaks as swiftly as possible, how exactly such orders will be enforced remains to be seen.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said the city will have to wait and see how enforcement will work.

"We'll address that as we see what the response is to this ... new wrinkle is. ... I can’t see us getting to the point of taking people into custody. That’s a whole another complicated issue," the mayor said.

However, fines and arrests are still possible, as in San Francisco, where keeping a non-essential business open can be subject to a $1,000 fine and possible arrest.

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