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Sheltering in Place in the Bay Area: How We’re Responding to the Coronavirus

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The coronavirus is changing life as we know it. A few days ago our federal government asked all Americans to avoid social gatherings of 10 or more people and to stay home as much as possible to increase social distancing and reduce the spread of disease. Last night, California issued an order requiring all residents to stay home, and as an Oakland resident, I’m on Day 4 of “sheltering in place.” 

There was a lot of talk about what sheltering would look like if it actually happened and it was stressful for our families not to know important things like, who would have to go to work and who would have to stay home? How would we care for our children and elders? And what would it be like to not leave home for extended periods of time?

So far, sheltering is stressful and inconvenient, but also forcing us to slow down, focus and be present. We are transitioning into a temporary new normal and finding out how incredibly adaptable we are. We are seeing some of our fears alleviated by grocery stores regularly being restocked, and mail, online orders and other deliveries continuing. We’re also really thankful for the things we did to prepare, which are making sheltering much more manageable. 

In case you’re wondering what sheltering in place could mean if it is asked of you, below are the restrictions we are under in the Bay Area until at least April 7. These are the strictest responses to the coronavirus in the U.S. so far.

  • Only “essential” activity, travel, and business functions are allowed while we shelter-in-place. 
  • Grocery stores, pharmacies, health care service providers, public transit, gas stations, banks, laundries, emergency responders and utility providers are considered essential and remain open. 
  • Restaurants are allowed to be open for delivery or take-out only.
  • While non-essential travel “on foot, bicycle, scooter, automobile or public transit” is not allowed, residents can go outside for walks or exercise as long as they keep away from anyone they don’t already live with and avoid gathering in large groups in parks/recreation areas.  
  • While focused on education rather than strict enforcement, law enforcement will “strongly encourage” residents to go home if they are spotted traveling to a non-essential establishment.
  • Daycare centers may stay open, but children must be kept in groups no larger than 12, and they must stay with the same group of children every day.
  • Cancelling or rescheduling routine medical appointments is requested.

My experience is that people are taking these measures seriously and caring for each other. Our families, friends, community members, and neighbors are checking in with each other through technology, providing emotional support, sharing resources, and getting supplies for people who are not advised or able to go out. And our schools and food banks are providing meals for students and families to eat at home. 

We are still going outside for fresh air and exercise – we’re just calling out and waving to our neighbors from a distance, for now. The social bonds are strong and we are finding ways to be there for each other. If there was ever a time when we’d need to act with empathy, compassion, and love, this is it. Together we can help our communities stay healthy.

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