Sonoma and Ventura Counties and the City of Palm Springs Issue Shelter in Place Orders

Date   Mar 18, 2020

On the heels of six other Bay Area counties issuing “Shelter in Place” orders (discussed in detail here), Sonoma and Ventura counties and the city of Palm Springs have also issued “Shelter in Place” orders.

The Sonoma County Order is effective from March 18, 2020 through April 7, 2020, while the Ventura County Order is effective from March 18, 2020 through April 1, 2020, and Palm Springs' order is effective March 18, 2020 until April 2, 2020.


For the most part, Sonoma County’s Order places identical restrictions on individuals and businesses to those already in place in other Bay Area counties (San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Alameda, Marin, and Contra Costa). As discussed in detail here, those Orders largely mandate that individuals are required to stay at home unless they leave for an approved reason, and non-essential businesses must cease most non-remote operations.

Sonoma County’s Order does, however, include some unique provisions not included in the six other Bay Area orders. Specifically, two provisions permit additional industries to operate, if only for a limited purpose:

  • The Order includes within its definition of essential businesses, those “businesses that are necessary to supply agriculture, food, and beverage cultivation, processing, and distribution.” See Order ¶ 10(f)(iv).
  • The Order permits licensed cannabis retail facilities or dispensaries to operate for the limited purpose of providing medical cannabis via curbside pickup or delivery, and permits individuals to leave their homes for the purpose utilizing those services. See Order ¶ 10(b).

In addition, Sonoma County’s Order includes two provisions that attempt to streamline implementation and enforcement:

  • The Order requires the County “to establish an Emergency Operations Center, implement all emergency protective orders, implement all health officer orders, and implement the County’s pandemic response.” See Order ¶ 12.
  • The Order delegates authority to County Counsel to answer questions from law enforcement regarding definitions under the order. See Order ¶ 10(k).

Sonoma County has issued FAQs for the Order, available here.


Palm Spring’s order largely adopts the orders previously issued by six San Francisco Bay Area counties March 17, 2020, discussed here. That said, shortly after adopting its order, the city council issued clarifications, providing needed guidance on what it considered "Essential Activities" or "Essential Businesses," as outlined below:

Essential Activities (exemptions to the shelter in place order) include:

  • Tasks essential to maintain health and safety, such as obtaining medicine or seeing a doctor;
  • Getting necessary services or supplies for themselves or their family or household members, such as food, pet food and getting supplies necessary for staying at home;
  • Engaging in outdoor activity, such as walking or hiking, provided people maintain at least 6 feet of social distancing;
  • Caring for a family member in another household;
  • Caring for elderly, minors, dependents, persons with disabilities, or other vulnerable persons;
  • Work providing essential services at an essential business or essential government functions (defined below).

Operation of Essential Businesses (exemptions to the shelter in place order) include:

  • Healthcare operations, including home health workers;
  • Essential Infrastructure, including construction of housing and operation of public transportation and utilities;
  • Newspapers, television, radio and other media services;
  • Grocery stores, farmers’ markets, food banks, convenience stores;
  • Pharmacies, health care supply stores, and health care facilities;
  • Food cultivation, including farming, livestock and fishing;
  • Businesses that provide necessities of life for economically disadvantaged individuals and shelter facilities;
  • Airlines, taxis and other private transportation providers providing transportation services necessary for essential activities;
  • Home-based care for seniors, adults and children;
  • Businesses that supply products needed for people to work at home and that supply other essential businesses with the support or supplies necessary to operate;
  • Pharmacies, health care supply stores, and health care facilities;
  • Interpretation services;
  • Hotel operations;
  • Restaurants and other facilities that prepare and serve food, but only for pick up, delivery and drive-thru;
  • Gas stations and auto repair facilities;
  • Banks and related financial institutions;
  • Businesses providing mailing and shipping services, including post office boxes;
  • Garbage collection;
  • Hardware stores, plumbers, electricians, exterminators and other service providers necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences and other essential businesses;
  • Educational institutions, for the purposes of facilitating distance learning;
  • Laundromats, dry cleaners, and laundry service providers;
  • Businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food, and goods directly to residences;
  • Childcare facilities providing services that enable essential employees to go to work;
  • Roles required for any essential business to “maintain basic operations,” which include security, payroll and similar activities.

Essential Government Functions

This includes all services needed to ensure the continuing operation of government agencies and to provide for the health, safety and welfare of the public.


Ventura County’s Order is more limited than those discussed above (and those issued March 17, 2020, as discussed here). The Order directs all individuals currently living in Ventura County who are 75 years or older and those 70 years or older with active or unstable medical conditions to shelter at their place of residence.

Essential Activities (exemptions to the shelter in place order) include:

  • Seeking medical care
  • Obtaining nutrition
  • Performing essential work in healthcare or the government

Persons affected by the order must practice social distancing (e.g., maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet) when using shared or outdoor spaces.

Closure of Bars/Restaurants

The Order also provides that restaurants and bars that serve food are limited to delivery, pick-up and drive-thru. Patrons must maintain a safe distance from each other (6 feet) while inside the facility.

The following businesses must close until April 1, 2020:

  • Bars/nightclubs that do not serve food
  • Movie theatres
  • Live performance venues
  • Bowling alleys
  • Arcades
  • Gyms and fitness centers
  • Wineries / breweries


Aside from the differences discussed above, the business restrictions now in place in Sonoma County and the City of Palm Springs are identical to what we detailed in California Counties' "Shelter in Place" Orders Severely Restrict Business Activities. We highly recommend employers in Sonoma County and Palm Springs review our prior Alert and the unique provisions identified here and do the following:

  • First, employers should determine whether they are an essential or non-essential business.
  • Employers that determine they are non-essential should shut down all operations apart from remote work and the minimum basic operations.
  • All employers in the counties should implement the “Social Distancing Requirements” listed above and ensure they are enforced.
  • While the Ventura County Order is more limited than the others discussed, employers should determine whether their business is of the type that has been ordered to close immediately. All employers should implement “Social Distancing” as discussed above, and ensure these distancing requirements are enforced.

Clearly, these Orders create a major change and will have a significant impact on employers in these counties. FordHarrison attorneys are available to assist you in implementing these changes and ensuring compliance with these and the other similar California “Shelter in Place” orders. If you have any questions or need assistance in complying with these Orders, please contact the authors of this Alert, Ross Boughton,, and Daniel Lyman,,  in FordHarrison’s San Francisco Bay Area office, and Stefan Black,, and David Cheng,, in our Los Angeles office. Of course, you may also contact the FordHarrison attorney with whom you usually work.

FordHarrison is closely monitoring the spread of Coronavirus and has implemented continuity plans, including the ability to work remotely in a technologically secure environment when necessary, to ensure continuity of our operations and uninterrupted service to our clients. We are following all CDC guidelines and state and local laws as applicable. We are committed to ensuring the health and welfare of our clients, employees, and communities while continuing to provide our clients with the highest quality service. Please see our dedicated Coronavirus Taskforce page for the latest FH Legal Alerts and webinars on Coronavirus, as well as links to governmental and industry-specific resources for employers to obtain additional information and guidance. For more information or to be connected with a Coronavirus Taskforce attorney, please contact