What a Stay at Home, Work Safe Order Means and How It Applies to You

In order to slow the spread of COVID-19, many counties and states have begun to issue ‘stay-at-home’ or ‘shelter in place’ orders. Harris, Waco, Austin and San Antonio counties are some of the most recent additions to the growing list of areas that are taking this precaution. But what exactly does an order like that mean, and what are people allowed to do while the order is in effect? Here’s the must-know information about sheltering in place.

What does ‘stay-at-home’ order mean?

‘Stay-at-home’ means businesses that are labeled non-essential will be closed until further notice. This type of order is designed to keep large amounts of people inside their homes unless it is imperative they leave their home.  

Which businesses are ‘essential’ and which are ‘non-essential’?

According to orders in areas such as Harris and Fort Bend Counties, these businesses are essential, meaning you can still visit them during a stay-at-home order:

  • Hospitals and doctors’ offices
  • Grocery stores
  • Banks
  • Gas stations
  • Pharmacies
  • Veterinary clinics and pet stories
  • The kitchens of certain restaurants (for delivery)

The federal government has deemed 16 sectors critical to the vitality of the United States.

These businesses are non-essential, meaning you can’t visit them during a shelter in place order because they will be closed:

  • Bars and dine-in restaurants
  • Movie theaters
  • Salons
  • Gyms
  • Event venues/convention centers

How is ‘stay-at-home’ different from social distancing?

A stay-at-home order is a government-enforced order whereas social distancing is a strong recommendation from the government and healthcare institutions that cannot be enforced. Certain temporary measures have already banned groups of more than 10 to gather as small steps toward a shelter in place order. If a new shelter in place order doesn’t change much about your current behavior, you’re doing a thorough job of social distancing. Keep it up!

When am I allowed to go outside?

You’re still allowed to go to the essential businesses listed above, so that means you’re allowed to do things like grocery shop. However, it’s recommended that you continue to strategize about your trips to the store or other essential businesses so you’re not being needlessly exposed to other people.

You’re also allowed to be outdoors in order to exercise and get some fresh air. Stay-at home orders aim to keep your contact with any other person to a minimum, but being outside is still allowed if you’re going on a jog alone or taking a walk with people who live with you. Try to stay six feet away from anyone that you see outside of your home at all times. If you maintain a safe distance, it’s OK to be outdoors—and it will most likely benefit your mental health.

A stay-at-home order can sound daunting because it’s not something we regularly deal with, but it’s really just a measure to ensure that people are only leaving their homes to conduct essential business, like buying food or seeking medical help. If you choose to enjoy the outdoors, a stay-at-home order also reminds you and those around you to keep a safe distance from one another.

As more governments implement this tactic to slow the spread of COVID-19, we hope you can refer back to this article as a quick reminder about what this order means for you and your community.

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Ali Vise