San Francisco Bay Area Counties Order Stricter Shelter in Place Rules in Response to COVID-19


Yesterday, Dr. Sara H. Cody, Health Officer of the County of Santa Clara, issued a new Order, that placed further restrictions on individuals and businesses in Santa Clara County, and superseded the original Shelter in Place Order from March 16, 2020. Since the original order, Santa Clara County and the San Francisco Bay Area continued to experience increases in confirmed cases of and deaths attributable to COVID-19, necessitating further measures to slow the transmission of Novel Coronavirus 2019 in the community. This action was taken in coordination with Alameda County, San Mateo County, San Francisco City and County, Contra Costa County, Marin County, and the City of Berkeley.

New Requirement: Essential Businesses Must Implement a Social Distancing Protocol

Customers May Not Bring Reusable Bags in Stores

In November 2016, California voters had approved Proposition 67, which banned single-use plastic bags in favor of recycled paper bags or reusable bags. Well, those reusable bags are now prohibited as well in a bid to reduce potential sources for contamination. This is one of the many changes you will see the next time you are at the grocery store.

Under the new order, Essential Businesses, such as grocery stores, must “prepare, post, and implement a Social Distancing Protocol” at their locations “frequented by the public or employees.” This protocol requires businesses to provide signage about their Social Distancing Protocol and implement measures to protect employee health, prevent crowds from gathering, keep people at least six feet apart, prevent unnecessary contact, and increase sanitization.

In the past week, I had already observed some stores adopt these measures even before Santa Clara County mandated them.

  • Signage. Essential Businesses must post their Social Distancing Protocol at their public entrance informing employees and customers to avoid entering the facility if they have a cough or fever, maintain six-feet distance from other persons, and observe coughing and sneezing etiquette.
  • Measures to Protect Employee Health. Essential Businesses must direct employees to work from home where possible and not to come to work if sick. They also must conduct symptom checks on employees before they may enter the work space, separate all desks and individual work stations by at least six feet, frequently disinfect break rooms, bathrooms and other common areas, and make available disinfectant, hand sanitizer, and soap and water.
  • Measures to Prevent Crowds From Gathering. Essential Businesses must limit the number of customers in the store at any one time and post an employee at the door to ensure that the maximum number of customers is not exceeded. They should also place per-person limits on goods that are selling out quickly to reduce crowds and lines.
  • Measures to Keep People At Least Six Feet Apart. Essential Businesses must place tape and other markings at least six feet apart in customers lines inside the store and on sidewalks at public entrances to maintain distance. They should also instruct employees to maintain six feet distance from customers and each other.
  • Measures to Prevent Unnecessary Contact. Essential Businesses should prevent customer access to self-serve food or bulk item bins. Also, they should not permit customer to bring their own bags, mugs or reusable items. Store must provide contactless payments systems or sanitize payment systems regularly.
  • Measures to Increase Sanitization. Essential Businesses should provide disinfecting wipes and assign employees to disinfect carts and baskets regularly. They should also provide hand sanitizer, soap and water or other disinfectant near the entrance and at checkout counters. They should also disinfect all payment portals, pens and styluses after each use.

Clarification on Legal Services

The new order also modified the exemption for legal services. The initial order deemed the following types of legal services as an Essential Business:

Professional services, such as legal or accounting services, when necessary to assist in compliance with legally mandated activities;

The new order changed the wording to remove “elective” legal services from the exemption:

Professional services, such as legal, notary, or accounting services, when necessary to assist in compliance with non-elective, legally required activities;

If you offer “elective” legal services, you can still work from home and provide consultations to clients by telephone or through videoconferencing.

New Restrictions on Outdoor Activities

Tennis Courts, Basketball Courts and Dog Parks Now Closed

The original order was quite permissive in that it allowed individuals to engage in any form of outdoor activity so long as they followed Social Distancing Requirement.

To engage in outdoor activity, provided the individuals comply with Social Distancing Requirements as defined in this Section, such as, by way of example and without limitation, walking, hiking, or running.

That rule proved to be a bit too lenient since many people ended up crowding local parks and beaches. So, the new order recognizes the new access and use restrictions, including parking lot closures and capacity limits, which were added by state and local governments to reduce COVID-19 transmission.

The new rule also prohibited outdoor activities that used shared facilities, such as golf courses, basketball courts and tennis courts, and also closed down playgrounds, outdoor gym equipment, picnic areas and dog parks.

To engage in outdoor recreation activity, including, by way of example and without limitation, walking, hiking, bicycling, and running, in compliance with Social Distancing Requirements and with the following limitations:

Outdoor recreation activity at parks, beaches, and other open spaces must be in conformance with any restrictions on access and use established by the Health Officer, government, or other entity that manages such area to reduce crowding and risk of transmission of COVID-19. Such restrictions may include, but are not limited to, restricting the number of entrants, closing the area to vehicular access and parking, or closure to all public access;

Use of recreational areas with high-touch equipment or that encourage gathering, including, but not limited to, playgrounds, outdoor gym equipment, picnic areas, dog parks, and barbecue areas, is prohibited outside of residences, and all such areas shall be closed to public access including by signage and, as appropriate, by physical barriers;

Use of shared facilities for recreational activities outside of residences, including, but not limited to, golf courses, tennis and pickle ball courts, rock parks, climbing walls, pools, spas, shooting and archery ranges, gyms, disc golf, and basketball courts is prohibited and those areas must be closed for recreational purposes, including by signage and, as appropriate, by physical barriers. Such facilities may be repurposed during the emergency to provide essential services needed to address the COVID-19 pandemic; and

Sports or activities that include the use of shared equipment may only be engaged in by members of the same household or living unit.

As the coronavirus situation evolves, we anticipate that the local, state and federal government will continue to refine their approach to combat the spread of this virus. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates.