Residents are to stay at home, and will only be allowed out for groceries and other essential errands

Residents in San Francisco and eight other Bay Area counties will be under orders to “shelter in place” in the hopes of slowing the spread of the new coronavirus, officials said Monday, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Beginning at midnight, residents of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, and Sonoma counties — around 7.5 million people in total — are to stay at home under the new directive and will only be allowed out to get groceries or pick up other essentials.

San Mateo Mayor Joe Goethals announced the decision in a press conference Monday afternoon, and said that he believes these are the most restrictive orders placed on any citizens in the U.S. at this time. The hope is to “flatten the curve” to reduce the number of cases and ease the burden on health care workers.

“Staying home is the best thing that we can do right now,” he said.

3D Render of a Topographic Map of San Francisco Peninsula, Bay Area, California, USA.
Greater Bay Area
| Credit: Getty

Goethals did not say how the order will be enforced, however the language says that a sheriff or chief of police will be in place to “ensure compliance,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

“The scientific evidence shows that at this stage of the [coronavirus] emergency, it is essential to slow virus transmission as much as possible to protect the most vulnerable and to prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed,” the order states. “One proven way to slow the transmission is to limit interactions among people to the greatest extent practicable.”

Under the terms of the order, homeless people are exempt, but encouraged to find shelter and all non-essential gatherings and travel — “on foot, bicycle, scooter, automobile or public transit” — are canceled.

Castro Theatre that has a marquee announcing that they are closed due to a statewide ordinance banning gatherings of more than 250 people on March 15, 2020 in San Francisco, California
Castro Theatre in San Francisco
| Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty

People can continue to pick up groceries and other essentials, such as health care supplies, and help those who need assistance. Airports, taxis and public transportation will remain open, but only for essential activities. Goethals urged residents not to rush to the grocery store now.

The Bay Area has one of the highest amounts of coronavirus cases in the U.S., with 114 as of Monday morning. California has 475 cases in total, the third-most in the country, and five people have died. Across the U.S., there are more than 3,800 cases and 66 deaths.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.