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San Francisco-area counties to 'shelter in place'; states close businesses

Coronavirus testing is preformed by appointment at the Kaiser Permanente French Campus in San Francisco, Calif., on March 12. Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI
Coronavirus testing is preformed by appointment at the Kaiser Permanente French Campus in San Francisco, Calif., on March 12. Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo

March 16 (UPI) -- Several counties in the San Francisco Bay Area on Monday ordered residents to "shelter in place" to fight the spread of the coronavirus disease, as states throughout the country ordered businesses to close.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed said about 7 million people are ordered to stay home except for "essential needs" until April 7. The orders were based on recommendations from health experts.

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The order applies to residents in San Francisco, Marin, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Mateo, Contra Costa and Alameda counties. It allows residents to leave their homes only to buy food, medicine and other necessary items and directs businesses that sell those items to remain open -- while ordering all non-essential businesses closed.

"This is going to be a defining moment for our city and we all have a responsibility to do our part to protect our neighbors and slow the spread of this virus by staying at home unless it is absolutely essential to go outside," said Breed.

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There are 4,661 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 85 deaths in the United States according to Johns Hopkins University figures as of Monday evening.

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Earlier Monday, the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut also announced that many non-essential businesses across the states will close until further notice to help stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Govs. Andrew Cuomo of New York, Ned Lamont of Connecticut and Phil Murphy of New Jersey announced the measure at a news conference late Monday morning.

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Under the order, all gyms, movie theaters and casinos will also close beginning at 8 p.m. EDT Monday.

They stressed that grocery stores, however, will remain open and restaurants and bars will remain open for takeout only. Also, they said gatherings of more than 50 people are not permitted.

"The coronavirus doesn't care about state borders, so this agreement with Gov. Ned Lamont and [Phil] Murphy will help protect the entire Tri-State Area," Cuomo tweeted. "These temporary closures will last as long as is necessary to protect the public health."

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Cuomo said the states decided to take action because they have yet to receive leadership from the federal government.

"I have called on the federal gov't to implement nationwide protocols, but in their absence we are taking this on ourselves," he noted.

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced similar measures Sunday night.

De Blasio said he will sign an executive order forcing all nightclubs, movie theaters and concert venues to close, while limiting restaurants, bars and cafes to food take-out and delivery services.

"This is not a decision I make lightly," de Blasio said. "These places are part of the heart and soul of our city. They are part of what it means to be a New Yorker. But our city is facing an unprecedented threat, and we must respond with a wartime mentality."

Garcetti announced his order in a message broadcast Sunday on Facebook, in which he said the order goes into effect at midnight and runs until March 31, unless further extended.

"This will be a tough time, but it is not forever," he said. "Angelenos have always risen to meet difficult moments, and we will get through this together."

Earlier Sunday, De Blasio said all schools in New York City will close until at least April 20 but the closure could last until the end of the school year, affecting some 1.1 million students. Last week, de Blasio declared a state of emergency but said Sunday more drastic measures were needed.

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"This is a decision I have taken with no joy whatsoever with a lot of pain," he said, adding that he never imagined "in a million years" of canceling school.

Officials will attempt to open the 1,800 schools mid-April, but there are "a lot of unknowns and a lot of challenges" that may keep them shuttered for the remainder of the school year, he said.

New York City will begin remote learning on March 23 and students who need the technology to participate can pick up devices on Thursday and Friday, the mayor's office said. Apple and T-Mobile "will ensure that in the coming weeks, 300,000 New York City public school students who don't currently have an Internet-connected device will have one for their schoolwork," it said.

Friday, the Los Angeles Unified School District voted to close its schools for at least two weeks.

Several other states and cities have adopted drastic measures to combat the spread of COVID-19, including Illinois and Ohio, who said Sunday they would also close all bars and restaurants. California has also ordered residents over 65 years of age to isolate themselves at home.

Maryland, Ohio, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon and the District of Columbia last week also ordered their schools closed.

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Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio, one of four states scheduled to hold primary elections on Tuesday along with Arizona, Illinois and Florida, said the state's Department of Health would order the polls closed on Monday night after a judge denied his request to delay the election until June.

"During this time when we face an unprecedented public health crisis, to conduct an election tomorrow would force poll workers to place themselves at an unacceptable health risk of contracting coronavirus," he wrote on Twitter.

Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams also announced the state would postpone its elections from May to June.

McDonald's also announced that effective Tuesday, all company-owned restaurants will close seating areas, self-service beverage bars and kiosks while shifting its focus to drive-through, walk-in take-out and delivery services.

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Bass Pro Shops marketing manager David Smith (R) carries a box of donated face masks into Mercy Health in Chesterfield, Mo., on May 13. The company is donating 1 million FDA-approved ASTM Level 1 Procedure Face Masks to healthcare workers and first responders working on the front lines of the pandemic. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

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