Orange County Health Officer Dr. Nichole Quick issued a Health Officer’s Order on Tuesday banning “all public and private gatherings of any number of people.”
The order is in effect until March 31st, but could be subject to an extension if conditions don’t get better.
“Households and living units” will be the only places Orange County isn’t monitoring.
People and businesses performing “essential activities” are exempted from the order.
For example, emergency responders, farmers, health care providers, grocery stores, banks, food banks, gas stations and homeless shelters will continue to operate, but have to maintain “a six-foot separation of Social Distancing between persons.”
According to The Orange County Register, “The county order allows fines or jail time for those who violate it, but Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said he’s told police chiefs to have officers use their best judgment, asking people to disperse if needed before taking more punitive steps.”
“Our first and foremost job is to protect people from the spread of the virus. It is not to arrest good citizens who find themselves in technical violation of the order,” Spitzer said. “If people are talking outside Starbucks, I’m not going to prosecute.”
One Twitter user asked, “Anyone else had enough of the government overreach yet?”
Taking a walk outside with someone not in your family is now police enforceably illegal in Orange County, CA
Anyone else had enough of the government overreach yet?
— Brian Harrington (@BrainHarrington) March 17, 2020
After residents of Orange County responded with confusion over the order, the county’s Emergency Operations Center released another message telling citizens it was not an order for them to shelter in place and it was “not a lockdown.”
Because of confusion surrounding the order, many businesses in the county were closed, but the updated press release stated, “It is important for all Orange County businesses to remain open while practicing social distancing consistent with the Governor’s guidance.”
However, “bars and other establishments that serve alcohol and do not serve food shall close.”
— Orange County Emergency Operations Center (@OrangeCountyEOC) March 18, 2020
See the full Public Health Order below: