As of Thursday evening, county government and health officials are asking San Luis Obispo County residents to stay at home and refrain from gatherings of any kind. If you do go out, health officials want everyone to maintain a six foot buffer of social distancing.
On Wednesday, county officials issued a mandatory 'shelter at home' order, starting at 5 p.m. on March 19.
“The intent of this order is to ensure that the maximum number of people self isolate at home to the maximum extent feasible, while enabling essential services to continue to slow the spread of COVID-19 to the greatest extent possible,” said county administrative officer and emergency services director Wade Horton, as he was announcing the order just after 3 p.m. on Wednesday.
“We are still refining the details of the order. We wanted the public to have advanced notification prior to the order going into effect.”
Horton and the county's public health officials say if the county as a whole undertakes these stringent measure now, it will get the community back to normal faster.
“COVID-19 is spreading in our county,” Horton said. “Individuals who contract the disease could have little or no symptoms. We need to limit gatherings to prevent virus transmission and protect the most vulnerable, and to prevent our health care system from being overwhelmed.”
County attorney Rita Neal ran down a long list of what's included in the order and what's exempt. People can still go to the grocery store.
“You may leave your homes for essential activity of taking care of your health and safety, and that of your household members, your family members and your pets,” Neal said. “You may leave your home to obtain necessary goods and supplies such as pharmacy items, grocery items, sanitary items.”
And everyone is free to leave home to exercise—go walking, running, hiking or biking—as long as it's not a group sport.
The mandates do not cover people who work at and run 'essential businesses.' That includes places like convenience stores, farmers' markets, hardware stores, gas stations and banks. And professional services like attorneys, accountants, and plumbers.
And it means fishing and farming—and running a winery—is also exempt from the stay-at-home order. Except for the public facing parts of the business, like a winery's tasting room.
And what happens to those who flaunt the order?
"What we're trying to do is we're trying to encourage people to self-police themselves, we want them to comply with this order voluntarily. However, it will be a misdemeanor," Horton said. "Our intent is compliance, voluntary compliance. We're in this together as a community, we can get through this community, but we need to take these measures in order to protect particularly the most vulnerable among us."
The ‘shelter in place’ order is going to be in effect for 30 days, but officials say they will reevaluate the situation in two weeks..