Fresno issues emergency 'shelter in place' order amid COVID-19 concerns

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Thursday, March 19, 2020
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Fresno issues emergency "shelter in place" order starting midnight Thursday, essential services will stay open

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The city of Fresno has issued an emergency order telling everyone to shelter in place starting at 12:01 am Thursday and lasting through March 31, but there is a long list of exemptions for essential functions.

Mayor Lee Brand called it an unprecedented problem and said his attitude has changed over the weeks, especially after meeting with other big-city mayors.

"We are literally making life and death decisions here," Brand said.

He says public health officials have told mayors that because of a lack of testing, they should take whatever their local numbers of confirmed cases are and multiply them by 50.

"We've been advised to take action now and not wait for those (official) numbers," said council president Miguel Arias. "If we underreact, people could die."

The Fresno city council voted on the order Wednesday afternoon.

People will be allowed to leave their homes for these purposes:

  • To engage in outdoor activity provided they comply with social distancing requirements of at least six feet between people outside of the same family
  • To perform any of the activities deemed essential
  • To engage in activities or tasks essential to their health and safety or their family members' health and safety
  • To obtain necessary services or supplies like groceries or household necessities
  • To care for a family member or pet in another household
  • To obtain health care services
  • City leaders emphasized that there's no problem with water services. Nobody will lose water, even for non-payment. The same is true for power. PG&E has pledged not to disconnect anyone's power.

    They're relying on voluntary compliance for now, but say businesses could lose licenses for breaking what is now a city ordinance.

    Police involvement is under consideration, but they're hoping it's unnecessary.

    Some of the businesses deemed essential include:

  • Health care operations and essential infrastructure
  • Grocery stores, certified farmers' markets, farm and produce stands, food banks, convenience stores, and other establishments selling canned food, dry goods, produce, fresh meat and poultry, etc.
  • Food cultivation, including farming, livestock, and fishing
  • Businesses providing food, shelter, and social services
  • Newspapers, television, radio, and other media services
  • Gas stations, auto supply, and auto repair
  • Banks and related financial institutions
  • Hardware stores
  • Plumbers, electricians, exterminators, and other providers of safety and sanitation for homes and businesses
  • Mailing and shipping services, including P.O. boxes
  • Educations institutions, provided they account for social distancing of at least six feet to the greatest extent possible
  • Laundromats, dry cleaners, and laundry service providers
  • Restaurants and other facilities preparing and serving food, but only for takeout and delivery
  • Businesses supplying products to people who work from home
  • Businesses supplying other essential businesses with support or supplies necessary to operate
  • Businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food, goods or services directly to homes
  • Airlines, taxis, and other private transportation providers for essential activities
  • Home-based care for seniors, adults, or children
  • Residential facilities and shelters for seniors, adults, and children
  • Professional services -- like legal or accounting -- when necessary to assist in compliance with legally mandated activities
  • Childcare facilities providing services for essential function employees, but they must do it in stable groups of 10 or fewer, children can't change from one group to another, if there's more than one group in a facility, they can't mix, and the same providers must stay with the same children
  • Guidelines exclude gun stores from being essential services, but there's no ban on gun sales, so online sales are still allowed.

    City leaders say they expect some businesses to have questions about where they fall. They can call the city attorney's office for clarity.

    They also recognize the economic implications of an order like this, so the city is lowering business licensing fees and delaying business taxes for 90 days.

    They're allowing the completion of construction on new homes and for homeowners to take possession of their new homes. They're working on a possible moratorium on evictions and rent increases, but also trying to ensure they can give some protection to landlords, like loan forbearance.

    They're encouraging people to get out and go running, walking, or hiking. They've waived parking fees at city-operated parks, but they're strongly encouraging social distancing and discouraging large gatherings.

    Mayor Brand says he's been in contact with city officials in Clovis and other Valley cities.

    With more than 530,000 people, Fresno is by far the largest city in the area and Brand expects a lot of the other cities will follow Fresno's lead.

    The ordinance expires on March 31 and city leaders hope that will be long enough to flatten the curve of the spread of the virus so they won't have to extend the harsh measures.

    "There is an end in sight," Brand said.

    Read the full order here:

    (Tap here to read the document on mobile)

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