gail newel
Dr. Gail Newel, Santa Cruz County health officer. — Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY—Santa Cruz County officials on Monday ordered all residents to stay home unless engaging in “essential activities, essential governmental functions, or to operate essential businesses.”

In addition, all public and private outdoor gatherings are prohibited, as is all non-essential travel.

Residents can still go outside to engage in outdoor activities, although they are still urged to follow social distancing guidelines, such as staying at least six feet away from others. 

The shelter-in-place order, which went into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday and will last through April 7, is an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19, also known as coronavirus. It is the strongest measure taken yet by local public officials since the virus began its worldwide spread. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom went a step further on Thursday evening, issuing a similar order statewide.

The order came as Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel announced that the county had nine confirmed cases of the virus, and two “probable” cases that had not yet been confirmed. 

Newell said that a lack of test kits in the county has hindered the county’s ability to get a complete scope of the virus’ spread.

“We have been severely limited by the inability to provide tests, and suspect that the number of cases is far higher than 11,” she said.

As of Thursday afternoon, the county had 14 confirmed cases.

Newel added that the order was prompted in part by watching coronavirus’ exponential spread across the world. There have been more than 210,000 confirmed cases around the globe, including at least 10,000 in the U.S. 

“Global examples have indicated that we should expect to see a doubling of cases every six days unless we take measures,” she said. “It’s best we act now and take aggressive action, than to be too slow and allow this disease to overwhelm us.”

A violation of the order is a misdemeanor punishable by fines and jail time. Newel said she hopes that measure is not necessary.

“People could be arrested, but we’re certainly hoping that our community members will voluntarily abide by these guidelines,” she said. 

Santa Cruz County joined Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties and the City of Berkeley, all of which jointly issued a shelter-in-place order on Monday at 1 p.m. That order also took effect at midnight Tuesday and lasts at least three weeks.

Monterey County issued its own shelter-in-place order on Tuesday, which lasts through April 8. That county had four confirmed cases as of Thursday evening. 

California now has roughly 1,000 cases, about half of them in the Bay Area, and 19 deaths.

“Santa Clara County is the epicenter of the outbreak in the Bay Area,” Newel said. 

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General assignment reporter, covering nearly every beat. I specialize in feature stories, but equally skilled in hard and spot news. Pajaronian/Good Times/Press Banner reporter honored by CSBA.


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