Orange County Issues Order to Slow Spread of COVID-19


The County Health Officer for Orange County, California, has issued an order that will have a broad impact on Orange County residents and businesses. The order is not as extensive or individually restrictive as the “shelter in place” orders for the Bay Area, but contains a number of important provisions.

The order, which goes into effect immediately on March 17, 2020 and will remain in effect until March 31, includes the following:

  • Public and private gatherings of any number of people outside of a household, including at work, are prohibited.
  • The order contains an exception for gatherings related to an extensive list of Essential Activities, which include but are not limited to: government and healthcare operations, law enforcement, grocery stores, gas stations, professional services, certain trades, transportation services, businesses supplying products needed for individuals to work from home, laundromats and others. Businesses are strongly encouraged to review the list of Essential Activities in the Order to evaluate whether their business and operations are covered
  • Even for Essential Activities, however, the order recommends maintaining a six-foot separation of Social Distancing, and gatherings should “only be conducted when they cannot not be postponed or achieved without gathering. . . .”
  • “Social distancing” is defined as maintaining a distance of six feet between persons except family members.
  • Bars and other establishments that serve alcohol but no food are ordered to close.
  • Restaurants and business establishments serving food are ordered to cease on-site dining and offer only take-out, drive-through or delivery. Social distancing measures must be followed for persons picking up food. Individuals age 65 or older, as well as those with serious chronic medical conditions (heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, etc.) or a compromised immune system are “strongly recommended” to remain at home.
  • Individuals exhibiting mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 are “strongly recommended” to isolate at home, except to seek medical care.
  • All Orange County businesses must utilize social distancing measures, engage in increased sanitation and utilize telecommuting, where possible. Businesses may not require medical verification in order for employees to utilize sick leave or other types of leave. “Social distancing” is defined as maintaining a distance of six feet between persons except family members.

In response to apparent confusion over what the order means for Orange County residents and businesses, the Orange County Health Care Agency issued a press release at 6:51 p.m. on March 17 to clarify that residents may continue to report to work, and that most businesses are encouraged to keep operating while practicing social distancing guidelines.  Officials announced that they plan to issue an amended order to clarify the source of the confusion.  We will supplement this alert with a new alert after the amended order is issued to highlight any changes.

Should you have any questions about the Orange County Order and its relevance to your business, please contact us.



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