Anyone can publish on Medium per our Policies, but we don’t fact-check every story. For more info about the coronavirus, see

Answering Community Questions about the “Shelter in Place” Order

City of Palo Alto
Mar 18 · 6 min read

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:

Or you can sign-up to get updates in your email box at:

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

How to Be Well and Maintain a Sense of Normalcy

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?

Go to for the latest updates and even more resources.


Official communications from the City of Palo Alto.

City of Palo Alto

Written by

Official communications from the City of Palo Alto. Connect about issues of interest to our community. Follow us on social media at


Official communications from the City of Palo Alto. Connect and join the conversation on issues of interest to our community.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade