Answering Community Questions about the “Shelter in Place” Order
Learn more about the City’s public safety response to slow the spread of the Coronavirus and where to go to get more details
The Santa Clara County Health Department was joined by various other Bay Area county health departments in issuing a legal order calling for residents to stay home and shelter in place for three weeks beginning Tuesday, March 17. The order limits activity, travel, and business functions to only the most essential needs. The guidance comes after substantial input from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and best practices from other health officials around the world. This blog provides some resources to answer community questions.
What is an essential activity or essential business?
The order defines essential activities as necessary for the health and safety of individuals and their families. Essential businesses allowed to operate during the recommended action include health care operations; businesses that provide food, shelter, and social services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals; fresh and non- perishable food retailers (including convenience stores and farmer markets); pharmacies; child care facilities; gas stations; banks; laundry businesses and services necessary for maintaining the safety, sanitation and essential operation of a residence. In addition, health care, law and safety, and essential government functions will continue under the recommended action.
Palo Alto City staff are actively working to assess the impact of the new guidance and what it means to the community. Updates will be posted on the City’s dedicated Coronavirus webpage at: cityofpaloalto.org/coronavirus
Or you can sign-up to get updates in your email box at: cityofpaloalto.org/newslettersignup.
Will Public Safety, Utilities, and Other Essential Services Continue?
The City of Palo Alto will continue its services to the extent possible in response to the latest Santa Clara County order. Essential services will continue, and many City services will be provided online or by phone.
On March 18, the City launched a Support Call Center to connect the community with information to help navigate services during the coronavirus crisis. The Community Support Call Center line will be open Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:30 a.m. — 6 p.m. can be accessed by calling (650) 272–3181.
Other service changes recently implemented include reassigning the Police Department’s parking enforcement community service officers temporarily to high-visibility patrol efforts around town. Enforcement of timed parking restrictions has been temporarily suspended as a result, but they will still take enforcement action for any parking concerns that present an immediate hazard. In addition, enforcement of the Residential Permit Parking program is temporarily suspended. The City’s shuttle will continue to be available at this time.
Regarding police enforcement, while public health orders can be enforced criminally, that is a measure of absolute last resort for the Palo Alto Police Department. The priority for our police officers will always be to educate and then ask for compliance with any public health order, and we are confident that our residents, businesses, and visitors will do their part to comply with temporary restrictions. The Palo Alto Police Department’s patrol division will continue to be out and about in the community, ready to respond to any calls for service that may come in.
Can I go to work?
This is one of the top questions we are receiving. Check-in with your employer to see if you should go to work, as Essential Businesses are allowed to continue operating. If you are unsure if your workplace is considered an Essential Business, go to the County’s FAQ page.
Please help keep our Police resources available for emergencies by only calling 911 for emergencies. Please contact Police Department at (650) 329–2413 for non-essential customer service requests. The City is also launching a Customer Support Call Center to connect the community with information and other resources. The call center is up and running. Call (650) 272–3181 to ask about city services and coronavirus related questions.
Resources for Online Learning and Play for Kids
- CNN has this article with opinions from experts about making the transition to homeschooling.
- Author Kate Messner is compiling a list of resources to make sure that reading and learning can happen anywhere. The list includes family-friendly read-aloud videos by authors and illustrators.
- Kidlit.tv is a website that focuses on the art of picture books and includes a raft of activities and artist interviews.
- PBSKids.org is another excellent website that features games and videos centered on PBS characters and a daily newsletter of activities.
- If you’re feeling housebound, take a trip underwater with the scientists of EV Nautilus as they explore the world’s oceans. Check out their YouTube channel.
- Looking for activities that don’t require a screen? The What Do We Do All Day blog has a long list of indoor activities for kids.
- Here’s a list of 100+ ideas to keep your kids busy during the coronavirus closures.
- Take a virtual museum tour. Museums around the world are providing virtual tours for free!
How to Be Well and Maintain a Sense of Normalcy
- Get Outside: It’s still okay (and allowed) to go outside, as long as you keep social distancing. Spending time outside improves mood and well-being, and is particularly beneficial to children. Take a walk around the neighborhood, ride a bike to the park, or go on a hike. Playgrounds in Palo Alto will be closed until further notice, but open space preserves, trails, and parks will remain open. Tip: social distancing in this context means being more than six feet away from people who are not a part of your household.
- Read: Or watch a movie, or find a new recipe in a cookbook, or listen to music. There are so many free resources online at Palo Alto’s e-library. The e-library remains open 24/7 and doesn’t require you to leave home! If you have a book or other item checked out, don’t worry. The Library has extended all checkouts until May 1.
- Be Well and Practice Mindfulness: It’s important to take care of yourself. Right now, more than ever, many are feeling the pressure of the coronavirus situation. Being present and living in the moment can help you reduce anxiety. If you need help calming your mind, try listening to mindfulness apps or listening to visualization resources. If you need to talk to someone or need further tips, please take advantage of the many free resources available to the public. A free, confidential phone line for the state of California, 1–855–845–7415, is available for anyone seeking emotional support. More info on the Peer-Run Warm Line. The Red Cross has set up advice on how to cope with the emotional aspects of the evolving coronavirus situation. Also check out recommended strategies from Dr. John Sharp, a faculty member at Harvard Medical School.
While this is not meant to be an all-inclusive list, these tips will hopefully provide some actions you can control during this time.
How can I help others in my community during this difficult time?
- The Red Cross and the Stanford Blood Center are both in urgent need of blood donations.
- Support local food banks, like the Second Harvest of Silicon Valley or and support services, like the Community Services Agency or the Peninsula Volunteers, with donations.
- Support small businesses by ordering takeout or delivery, buy a gift card for online or future services, or find other ways to participate in the local economy.
Go to cityofpaloalto.org/Coronavirus for the latest updates and even more resources.