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Navigating Coronavirus “Shelter-in-Place” Orders Issued by Local Public Health Authorities

March 18, 2020

Local health authorities have begun issuing orders that impose restrictions on gatherings, travel, and business operations (“Shelter-in-Place orders”). A number of public health authorities in the San Francisco Bay Area issued coordinated Shelter-in-Place orders on Monday, March 16, 2020. (Santa Clara County, Alameda County, San Mateo County, San Francisco County, Contra Costa County, Marin County, City of Berkeley.) On Tuesday, March 17, 2020, the Health Officer for Orange County in Southern California issued a similar order, and then subsequently issued a clarifying statement that it was not intended to be a Shelter-in-Place order and that a revised order would be issued.

This situation is evolving rapidly, and the Shelter-in-Place orders are expansive, complex, may include exceptions, and often are subject to subsequent clarification. Companies and employers in affected counties should carefully review these orders and stay abreast of any revisions and clarifications. Companies and employers outside the affected counties should review existing orders and evaluate their business operations, human resources, and communications plans. We anticipate that public health authorities in additional cities and counties will issue similar Shelter-in-Place orders in the future.

These local Shelter-in-Place orders stem from the Governor Gavin Newsom’s March 4, 2020 State of Emergency Proclamation. The Proclamation and subsequent executive orders (N-25-20 and N-26-20) triggered a number of California statutory authorities, including the authority of public health authorities to issue Shelter-in-Place orders and for emergency officials to potentially commandeer private property as part of the COVID-19 response. These authorities are similar to those possessed by the federal government and other state governments when an emergency or major disaster is invoked.


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