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Bay Area Residents Are Required To Stay Home For Three Weeks To Stop The Spread Of The Coronavirus

“Temporarily changing our routine is absolutely necessary to slow the spread of this pandemic,” a public health officer said.

Last updated on March 16, 2020, at 5:25 p.m. ET

Posted on March 16, 2020, at 4:30 p.m. ET

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Bay Area residents have been ordered to shelter in place for the next three weeks and not leave their homes except for "only the most essential needs" as the region combats the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

On Monday, public health officers from Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties and the city of Berkeley announced that all nonessential businesses will be closed effective 12:01 a.m. Tuesday until April 7. Violations of the order would be punishable as a misdemeanor, and businesses that don't comply could lose their licenses.

Per the order, essential businesses and activities are those "necessary for the health and safety for individuals and their families." That includes grocery stores, pharmacies, laundry businesses, gas stations, health care facilities, social services, and banks. Restaurants can stay open, but only for takeout or delivery. Law enforcement, waste management, and utilities operations will continue as usual.

“Temporarily changing our routine is absolutely necessary to slow the spread of this pandemic,” said Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County's public health officer. “The Health Officers from the largest jurisdictions in the San Francisco Bay Area are united and we are taking this step together to offer the best protection to our respective communities.”

In a news release, Bay Area health officials said that as of Sunday, there had been 258 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the area — a number that represents more than half of the state's case count. Four people have died.

"These measures will be disruptive to day-to-day life, but there is no need to panic," San Francisco Mayor London N. Breed said at a press conference announcing the order.

In Monday's press conference, government officials stressed that the new measures are an escalation of social distancing and not an order banning people from leaving their homes. However, residents were urged to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendations for keeping 6 feet away from other people at all times. Individuals who are homeless are exempt from the order, but urged to find shelter.

The Bay Area shutdown comes as the White House has provided stricter guidelines for stopping the spread of the virus. People should avoid gatherings of 10 or more, stop dining in restaurants, and work from home if possible. Older Americans and people with underlying health conditions in particular should stay home and avoid other people, the guidelines said.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.