California Lockdown Explained: What 'Stay at Home' Order Means for Residents, Businesses

The COVID-19 virus outbreak in the U.S. has seen nearly 14,250 confirmed cases, including more than 200 deaths, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University.

The recent surge in cases across California saw the state issue a "stay at home" lockdown order on Thursday in a bid to curb the spread of the virus. The order requires all state residents to remain at home, apart from those working in a selection of key sectors (outlined further below).

The virus, which was first detected in Wuhan, a city in China's Hubei province, has affected more than 245,000 people globally, while more than 86,000 have now recovered from infection. China has around 81,200 cases, with more than 3,100 deaths and over 70,700 recoveries. The country claims the outbreak has been largely contained, reporting no new domestic cases.

California currently has at least 675 positive cases, according to the latest report from the state's department of health, as well as 18 deaths.

What does a "stay at home" order mean?

The latest measure requires "all individuals living in the State of California to stay home or at their place of residence except as needed to maintain continuity of operations of the federal critical infrastructure sectors," the order states.

There are already 21.3 million people across 20 counties in California under lockdown orders similar to the latest one issued in the state.

When does it begin and how long will it last?

The order went into effect on March 19 and will be in place until further notice, the state's department of health said.

Why is it being issued?

The order was issued following a spike in cases on Wednesday when 126 new infections were reported over a 24-hour period, California Governor Gavin Newsom noted in a letter to President Donald Trump on Wednesday.

Newsom noted: "In some parts of our state, our case rate is doubling every four days. Moreover, we have community acquired transmission in 23 counties with an increase of 44 community acquired infections in 24 hours."

San Francisco coronavirus lockdown March 2020
A supportive sign is posted on a theater's marquis in the North Beach area of San Francisco, California on March 17, 2020. Getty Images

The governor also noted that if no mitigation efforts are taken, over 25 million people (around 56 percent of the state) could be infected over the next eight weeks.

The order explains: "The California Department of Public Health looks to establish consistency across the state in order to ensure that we mitigate the impact of COVID-19. Our goal is simple, we want to bend the curve, and disrupt the spread of the virus."

Is it mandatory by law?

Yes. The department notes the latest order "shall be enforceable pursuant to California law...including, but not limited to, Government Code section 8665."

The law states that anyone who violates, refuses or neglects to obey any lawful order "shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punishable by a fine of not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000) or by imprisonment for not to exceed six months or by both such fine and imprisonment."

The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates the spread of the COVID-19 virus across the U.S.

Map of U.S. coronavirus cases, March 20
This map shows the spread of COVID-19 cases across the U.S. as of March 20. The graph by Statista uses data from Johns Hopkins University.

Which venues will be closed?

  • Dine-in restaurants
  • Bars and nightclubs
  • Entertainment venues
  • Gyms and fitness studios
  • Public events and gatherings
  • Convention centers

Which places will be open?

The order outlines residents working in "16 critical infrastructure sectors may continue their work because of the importance of these sectors to Californians' health and well-being."

Essential services that will remain open include:

  • Gas stations
  • Pharmacies
  • Food: Grocery stores, farmers markets, food banks, convenience stores, take-out and delivery restaurants
  • Banks
  • Laundromats/laundry services

Essential state and local government functions will also remain open, including law enforcement and offices that provide government programs and services.

Full list of the 16 critical infrastructure sectors:

  1. Chemical sector
  2. Commercial facilities sector
  3. Communications sector
  4. Critical manufacturing sector
  5. Dams sector
  6. Defense industrial base sector
  7. Emergency services sector
  8. Energy sector
  9. Financial services sector
  10. Food and agriculture sector
  11. Government facilities sector
  12. Healthcare and public health sector
  13. Information technology sector
  14. Nuclear reactors, materials and waste sector
  15. Transportation systems sector
  16. Water and wastewater systems sector

Data on COVID-19 cases is from Johns Hopkins University unless otherwise stated.

The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates the recovery curve compared to the infection curve of the virus.

COVID-19 cases compared to recoveries March 18
Number of COVID-19 cases compared to recoveries.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before; during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • If you feel unwell (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and call local health authorities in advance.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing. Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.