Sheltering, staying at home, social distancing, self isolating. All of these terms and phrases have become pretty common in the past few weeks, but there’s been a lot more focus on shelter-in-place orders and stay-at-home orders being issued around the country.
Florida and Miami-Dade County still haven’t formally issued these orders — even though a good amount of restrictions are in place locally — but the city of Tampa is considering the option and some cities and towns in the county have decided to issue the orders. And the lack of cohesive action has some elected officials here wondering when or if we’ll follow the lead of states like New York and California.
But what would it mean if such an order actually went into effect in Miami-Dade County? Could we still go out and buy groceries? How would it be enforced? We took a look at similar orders issued elsewhere in the U.S. to get an idea. We also looked at what’s happened so far in Florida and the 305 — and what might happen next.
So what does sheltering in place mean?
It’s ultimately up to the elected official and jurisdiction where it’s happening. Some examples across the country include New York where the entire state was ordered to shelter in place.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s order shut down all non-essential businesses and banned any public gatherings. It reinforces the idea of keeping a safe distance and encourages only essential workers to be out and about or on public transportation.
It also asks essential businesses to change their practices to encourage social distancing.
Most of these orders don’t completely require people to stay in their homes. You can still technically go to the grocery store, a pharmacy or other places that are deemed essential. But staying home is strongly encouraged and in some cases enforced when considering non-essential trips and movement.
How would that be different from what’s already happened?
Putting it into one order would clear up a lot of grey areas and exceptions that people have already taken advantage of on a local level. But if you’re in unincorporated Miami-Dade County, and most larger cities in the county, a lot of these restrictions are already in place in one form or another.
But even as Gov. Ron DeSantis, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, and several other local government leaders have closed businesses and gathering places, set up curfews, and encouraged locals to stay home and remain distant if they go out in public, there are still things that haven’t been addressed in a holistic way.
And that’s why some local and state elected officials have asked for an order to come at the state or county level, because it would help to clarify the mostly piecemeal approach that’s happened over the last few weeks.
Is it actually enforceable?
So despite the mixed terminology around these orders — whether it be shelter in place, stay at home, etc. — many experts agree that they aren’t easily enforceable on their own unless it’s formally stated or written in an order. For now, they mostly remain a strong collection of closures and an effort to discourage behaviors that could spread COVID-19, but New York and California are exceptions.
Gov. Cuomo’s formal order includes a section that says any businesses that violate the non-essential closure would be subject to fines, and it references a New York statute in doing so. That statute says that fines could initially go as high as $2,000 and then increase to $10,000 for repeat offenses.
And in the Bay Area of California, some police departments are planning to issue citations and violators would face a misdemeanor charge for not following the state’s order.
In Florida, there has been some clarity as the state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation has agents enforcing the governor’s order that restaurants and bars offer takeout or delivery options only.
Some cities — like Miami Beach — noted in their orders that police and code enforcement officers would be enforcing things like beach closures and curfews, and that violations could lead to an arrest.