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What is a shelter-in-place order, and how does it compare to Colorado's current coronavirus measures?

Northern California has a shelter-in-place order to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. Here's what that looks like.

DENVER — Nearly seven million people living in northern California have been placed under a shelter-in-place order in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, and New York City’s mayor said he is weighing a similar measure.

While Gov. Jared Polis (D-Colorado) hasn’t gone as far as to say the Centennial State will follow suit immediately, he did say it was an option that was being considered, among others.

“You can’t shut down everything forever,” Polis said during a news conference on Wednesday morning. “We have to make sure we have done it in a way where there’s compliance, there’s social order where people can support themselves.”

>>> Watch the video above for an explanation of social isolation and the importance of "flattening the curve." 

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Colorado has enacted social distancing measures. Earlier this week, Polis ordered that all restaurants and bars close for in-person service, and only operate for food takeout and delivery. He has also barred large public gatherings, leading to the closure of places like casinos and movie theaters.

But, these efforts are different than an official shelter-in-place order. Here’s an explanation of what that looks like in California’s San Francisco Bay area.

Residents must remain in place – except for essential activities 

This means people who live in the Bay Area have been ordered to stay at home, with some exceptions.

San Francisco city officials say essential activities include grocery shopping or picking up prescriptions. The good news for Coloradans? In California anyway, essential activity includes exercise and going outside. As long as they stay six feet apart, people are allowed to walk their dogs, go for walks and run.

Other things categorized as essential activities include taking care of sick or disabled relatives, and seeing a doctor.

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Jenna Eastman, 9NEWS reporter Katie Eastman's sister, works for a tech company in San Francisco. She said she's been able to go on walks during the shelter-in-place order, and that the streets have been virtually empty. 

“It kind of feels apocalyptic and just strange," she said. 

What happens if people don’t comply? 

William Scott, San Francisco’s police chief, said right now, the city is asking for voluntary compliance. But with that being said, someone who isn’t sheltering in place could be charged with a misdemeanor.

“But that is an absolute last resort,” Scott said.

During his news conference on Wednesday, Polis also emphasized the importance of self-compliance with the state of Colorado’s slightly lesser orders.

“You’re stupid if you have 40 people in your home,” he said. “Don’t be stupid, engage in social distancing.”

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Eastman, who has been working from home since last Thursday, said she found out about San Francisco's order from the news. She said other people she knows in the area learned about the shelter-in-place from notifications on their phone similar to an Amber Alert. 

"It's a little bit confusing, to be honest," Eastman said. 

Who is exempt from the shelter in place? 

In the Bay Area, these are employees and businesses that are fairly vital to keeping society running.

That means healthcare and pharmacy workers, law enforcement, and people who work for businesses that help economically disadvantaged people are exempt.

There are other exemptions you wouldn’t think of, like those who work at banks, build houses, fix cars, work in hardware stores and provide dry cleaning.

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In Colorado, which again, does not have a shelter-in-place order, many employees have been asked to work from home and limit contact with strangers and older relatives.

The state has seen a surge in the number of people applying for unemployment, a number Polis said he expects to further grow – especially as he heightens measures aimed at social isolation.

“You can expect to see additional supplementation as you have seen every day this week,” Polis said. “I expect you will see more in the coming days.”

How long will this last? 

California's shelter-in-place is slated to last until April 7, but local authorities can extend it or reduce it. 

Denver's restaurant regulations began on Monday, and are slated to last for eight weeks. 

Earlier this week, President Donald Trump asked for Americans to stay away from restaurants, bars and other public gathering places for 15 days (as of Monday) to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

Trump also said the virus could potentially have an impact through August. 

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