Oakland residents must stay home, Bay Area health officials order

Bay Area public health officers have ordered residents in the region to stay home in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), effective today.

On March 16, public health officers for the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara counties, and the City of Berkeley, evoked state law to order residents to stay home for three weeks. 

The shelter in place will be in effect until April 7, unless changed, and prohibits about 7 million people from leaving home unless for “essential” needs. These may include purchasing food or necessities. The order closed many businesses, but grocery stores, hospitals, and pharmacies. Restaurants can remain open, but only for take-out or delivery.

According to the officials, social distancing will slow the transmission of the disease. As of March 15, the Bay Area had 258 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 4 associated deaths. Considering 

“Limiting interpersonal interactions is a proven strategy to slow and reduce viral spread and protect the most vulnerable among us — individuals who are 60 years of age and older, people with chronic and underlying medical conditions, and people experiencing homelessness.” Dr. Erica Pan, interim director of Alameda County’s Public Health Department, said. “Our counties share borders and many people live in one county and work in another. It’s absolutely critical for us to be aligned on COVID-19 mitigation efforts.”

Oakland officials encouraged residents to cooperate in order to limit transmission of COVID19. 

Mayor Libby Schaff said, “This limited order is something we all must take seriously but not panic.”

Half of California’s confirmed cases are in the Bay Area. Officials assume that more people will become infected by communitu transmission, when people catch COVID-19 from each other, not foreign travel. The first known case reported was from community transmission. Officials also said when the ability or capacity to test increases, they expect more people will likely be confirmed. 

Violating the order is punishable as a misdemeanor, and could include jail or fine. The order is until April 7, but could be lifted, altered, extended, or shortened.

“This is a moment we are all coming together,” Councilwoman Nikki Bas said, “Social distancing doesn’t mean social isolation.”

Residents can also go outside but are asked to maintain distance from others.

The order to “shelter-in-place” came one day after Governor Gavin Newsom ordered older Californians to stay home and the same day the Grand Princess cruise ship left Oakland. Many local schools and colleges have closed for spring or moved to online claseees.

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Rasheed Shabazz is a multimedia storyteller, urban planning historian, and youth development professional based in the Bay Area. He is co-director of Oakland Voices. He recently completed his Masters of City and Regional Planning at UC Berkeley. 

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