What’s a ‘Shelter in Place’ Order, and Who’s Affected?

What’s a ‘Shelter in Place’ Order, and Who’s Affected?

Earlier, Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb of Oak Park ordered residents to shelter in place beginning March 20. The village of Oak Park borders the west side of C

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Earlier, Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb of Oak Park ordered residents to shelter in place beginning March 20. The village of Oak Park borders the west side of Chicago, which had not ruled out issuing a similar order, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.


The OceanView retirement community in Falmouth ordered residents to shelter in place March 20 after four residents tested positive for the virus. A roadblock has been put in place to stop people from entering the community. Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Nirav Shah said the community is not a long-term care facility like the nursing home near Seattle where at least 29 residents have died, “but given the vulnerability of the residents there, we’re taking this very seriously.”

New York

On March 20, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a shelter in place order, though he said at a press conference he would prefer not to call it that. Beginning March 22 at 8pm, all New York state residents are ordered to stay at home as much as possible. People who are 70 or older, or immunocompromised, are not permitted to visit households with multiple people, must wear a mask when in the company of others (though whether they will be able to find one is unclear), pre-screen visitors and aides by taking their temperature, stay 6 or more feet away from other people, and stay away from public transit unless it is an emergency.

Healthy people under 70 should only leave their homes to get groceries and medicine, but are permitted to exercise and walk outside so long as they remain 6 or more feet away from others at all times.

All non-essential gatherings of people are banned, and all non-essential businesses must keep their employees at home. Essential businesses include grocery stores and other food providers, gas stations, healthcare providers, pharmacies, convenience stores, hardware stores, auto repair shops, banks, laundromats, child-care providers, utility services, delivery services, warehouses and manufacturers, plumbers, animal care providers, transportation services, and construction companies. Restaurants are permitted to provide takeout and delivery services so long as they adhere to social distancing guidelines.

“These provisions will be enforced,” said Cuomo. “These are not helpful hints. This is not if you really want to be a great citizen. These are legal provisions. They will be enforced. There will be a civil fine and mandatory closure for any business that is not in compliance. Again, your actions can affect my health. That’s where we are.”

I’m under a shelter in place order. Can I….

… go to the hair or nail salon?

Nope, these businesses are (or should be) closed as the services cannot be performed while maintaining social distancing measures.

… do my laundry?

In most places, yes, laundromats are open. Make sure that you maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from other people while traveling to and from the laundromat, and while cleaning your clothes.

… shop for groceries?


… walk my dog?

Yep, so long as you stay at least 6 feet away from other people while you do it.

… go to the airport?

Technically, yes, airports are not covered by shelter in place orders. Is it a wise idea to travel during a pandemic? Probably not.

… go to the doctor?

If you are having a medical emergency or have made an appointment with a doctor, yes. However most government officials recommend that people utilize telemedicine as much as possible to reduce the strain on hospitals and doctors’ offices, and to reduce the likelihood of infection.

… go see my friends?

Physically? No, you must practice social distancing measures. Virtually? Yes.

… go for a run or work out outside?

If you are healthy and stay 6 or more feet away from others at all times, yes.

…leave town?

Ostensibly, yes, no one will stop you. However, non-essential travel is highly discouraged.

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