New Statewide Stay-at-Home Orders in Effect as COVID-19 Surges

Nearly nine months since the first stay-at-home and “safer-at home” orders were issued in California, residents in the Golden State are once again subject to government-mandated restrictions in another effort to flatten the curve—this as COVID-19-related infection rates, hospitalizations and deaths throughout the state are at record highs. In response to the winter surge of the novel coronavirus and the resulting shortage of beds in intensive care units from San Diego in the south to the Bay Area in the north, Governor Gavin Newsom has announced new regional stay-at-home orders that will, as of this writing, impact 28 counties that encompass 84% of California’s population (that is more than 33 million people).

Most all of the orders went into effect today (Monday, December 7) and will continue in place until at least December 28 in Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley and January 4 in the Bay Area. Note that the restrictions will lift only if available ICU capacity projections reach certain thresholds.

Given that many clients of Michelman & Robinson, LLP live and work in the effected areas, including Los Angeles, Orange and San Francisco Counties (the locations of our California offices), the following information about the most recent shutdowns and limitations should prove helpful.

Q. Big picture, what restrictions are being imposed in California?

A. For the next few weeks, people may not congregate with anyone outside their households. As has been the case, face coverings are required when outside the home, but now all of the following will again be prohibited or otherwise closed:

  • On-site restaurant dining and bars (even outdoors)
  • Hair and nail salons and other personal care services
  • Movie theaters (indoor or outdoor)
  • Museums, zoos, aquariums and playgrounds
  • Satellite wagering and casinos
  • Outdoor wineries

Q. What will be allowed and/or remain open during the pendency of the stay-at-home orders?

A. The breadth and impact of the new restrictions are not as severe as the stay-at-home and “safer-at-home” orders issued last spring, at least not yet. Indeed, all of the following will be permitted and/or stay open, albeit with limited capacity, mandatory masks and social distancing measures in place:

  • Essential retail businesses, like supermarkets and drug stores, though capacity will top out at 20% and no eating or drinking will be allowed inside stores
  • Non-essential retail businesses and malls, also subject to 20% capacity and food and drink restrictions
  • Restaurants offering takeout, pick-up or delivery
  • Hotels that support critical infrastructure, including workers in healthcare, food, agriculture, energy, utilities, transportation, communications, government operations, manufacturing, financial services and the entertainment industries. Note that while hotels may remain open, hotel use for nonessential travel (read: vacations, road trips, etc.) is prohibited
  • Offices that support critical infrastructure (as defined above)
  • Walking, hiking, running and biking (keep exercising!)
  • Places of worship (outdoor services only)
  • Schools that are already open for in-person learning
  • Outdoor areas like beaches, parks, and hiking trails
  • Medical and dental offices, even for non-urgent visits
  • Child care and prekindergarten
  • Professional sports and entertainment production (no live audiences)
  • Outdoor recreational facilities, but without food, drink or alcohol sales, and no overnight camping
  • Political demonstrations

Clearly, as of now, Californians still have quite a bit of freedom of movement, these most current stay-at-home orders notwithstanding. Still, everyone must remain mindful of capacity restrictions, use of face coverings and social distancing in order to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

Q. What about non-essential travel?

A. All nonessential travel is temporarily restricted. Nonetheless, enforcement of this restriction will be difficult at best, and the state has admitted that it has labeled this a “requirement” simply in hopes of encouraging compliance.

Q. Are the restrictions as set forth in the stay-at-home orders set in stone?

A. No, counties can impose even tougher rules depending upon circumstances going forward, and new orders will likely be triggered regionally where ICUs become 85% full.

Q. How will the orders be enforced?

A. Flattening the curve is largely dependent upon voluntary compliance by California residents, as opposed to enforcement. In fact, officials of certain localities have suggested that they will not enforce the rules at all. However, Governor Newsom has stated that he will withhold pandemic funds from counties that do not enforce the stay-at-home orders or adopt measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Unfortunately, the impact of COVID-19 in California and nationwide is on track to get worse before getting better. That being said, we encourage our clients and friends to stay safe during these difficult days. And as we approach the New Year, all of us at M&R wish all of you a healthy 2021.

This blog post is not offered, and should not be relied on, as legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice in specific situations.