This is pretty incredible news. Six counties in the Bay Area, including San Francisco, will begin a “shelter in place” order tonight at midnight that is expected to last at least 3 weeks. The San Francisco Chronicle reports this is one step shy of a full lock down:

The directive begins at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday and involves San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Marin, Contra Costa and Alameda counties — a combined population of more than 6.7 million. It is to stay in place until at least April 7. Three other Bay Area counties — Sonoma, Solano and Napa — were not immediately included.

The order falls just short of a full lockdown, which would forbid people from leaving their homes without explicit permission, and it wasn’t immediately clear how, or to what degree, it would be enforced. The order calls for the sheriff or chief of police to “ensure compliance.” In Italy and other places that have instituted lockdowns, travel outside the home has been restricted without permission and police have been ordering people back home if they don’t have a reason to be in public…

In the six Bay Area counties, non-essential gatherings of any size are now banned, along with non-essential travel “on foot, bicycle, scooter, automobile or public transit.” People may travel for shopping for necessary supplies, accessing health care, and providing aid to family and friends who need assistance, and for non-residents, returning to their home outside the Bay Area. Airports, taxis, and public transit — including BART — will remain operational, but only for essential travel and people are expected to keep six feet apart when possible.

In essence, everyone is to work at home or simply not work. However, there is a fairly long list of companies that will be exempt:

Grocery stores, food banks, pharmacies, restaurants for takeout food and delivery only, veterinary services, pet-food stores, gas stations, auto repair shops, hardware and other home-supply stores and home repair services, banks and laundry services. Child-care facilities are allowed to remain open as long as rules limiting the size and composition of the groups are restricted. Residential care facilities for adults, children and seniors will remain open as will food banks and other non-profits that serve the needy. Delivery services that take food, goods or services directly to residences are allowed to operate.

So I guess that means Domino’s Pizza can still deliver pizzas starting at midnight but Pizza Hut’s dining room is closed. The real question that no one seems able to answer yet is how any of this will be enforced. According to a separate story in the Chronicle, the police are supposed to “ensure compliance.

The shelter-in-place order is not a mandatory lockdown for residents, which would forbid people from leaving their homes without explicit permission. But the health orders issued by the counties calls for the sheriff or chief of police to “ensure compliance” in order to safeguard public health.

Since people are still free to leave their homes for necessities like food or going to work at any of the many businesses that remain open, how do you enforce this new rule? Will police be stopping people on the street to ask where they are going? What happens if they simply lie and say they’re going to the grocery store? It just seems like this ultimately comes down to some kind of honor system. I guess we’ll find out how that goes. But the real question is whether or not other big metro areas will be following this example soon.

Update: Here’s the announcement.