The state and regional coronavirus guidelines are designed to keep public spaces empty and help residents self-isolate.

James Martin/CNET

For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

Millions of people around the world have been urged or mandated to self-quarantine at home as nonessential businesses close. The move to lock down cities, states and even entire countries is part a global effort to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus — from Italy to India to the UK. Curfew. Shelter in place. Essential businesses. What do all these terms mean? 

Will the police intercede if you leave the house? Where can you go and what can’t you do? What can you do to protect yourself when you do leave the house? The rules and definitions depend on where you live, but in general, restrictions are tightening as countries brace for a swell in cases and deaths related to COVID-19

Keep scrolling for areas participating in shelter in place, stay at home, curfews, travel bans and what defines essential versus nonessential businesses. This story is updated frequently as the situation develops.

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Shelter in place: Here’s what states are doing

Shelter in place is a fairly restrictive directive that instructs residents to stay at home and only leave for essential tasks, like going to necessary doctor’s appointments and the grocery store. In general, you can go on walks for errands and recreation while practicing social distancing — and you can walk your dog and garden. You can also drive to and from essential services, but driving around for fun is out. But many businesses, like gyms and movie theaters, are closed while residents stay at home. US states from New York to Alaska have ordered people to stay indoors. And to help individuals recover from the crisis, the federal government is sending coronvirus checks to many US citizens.

While in general there’s no police enforcement for shelter in place, in some regions, such as the counties of the San Francisco Bay Area, you can be fined or imprisoned if you don’t comply.

Alaska: Gov. Mike Dunleavy mandated Alaskans to remain at their place of residences starting March 28 and closed nonessential businesses.

California: San Francisco Bay Area communities started sheltering in place as of March 17, expanding to a statewide mandate as of March 19. Seniors over 65 are ordered to stay indoors, except for walks and necessary appointments and are encouraged not to go to stores. On March 22, Gov. Gavin Newsom requested a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration to get federal assistance with the crisis. 

Colorado: Starting March 26, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis ordered Coloradans to stay at home. The governor said he also requested a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration for federal assistance.

Connecticut: Gov. Ned Lamont issued a “Stay Safe, Stay Home” order for March 23, closing nonessential businesses statewide and asking residents to avoid contact with others when outside.

Delaware: Starting March 24, Gov. John Carney ordered residents of the state to shelter in place and closed nonessential businesses. The state provided a long list of what can and can’t remain open.

Hawaii: Gov. David Ige ordered anyone in the state — residents and tourists alike — to stay in their place of residence, including hotels, condominiums, townhomes, apartments or other multiunit dwellings, starting March 25. The governor had previously ordered anyone arriving in the state to self-quarantine.

Idaho: Gov. Brad Little ordered residents to stay home statewide for at least 21 days, except for essential services and outdoor exercise, staying 6 feet away from other individuals.

Illinois: Starting March 21, Gov. J. B. Pritzker ordered a statewide shelter in place, with essential services like pharmacies and clinics remaining open.   

Indiana: From March 25 to April 7, Gov. Eric Holcomb ordered residents to stay at home, except for essential services, and prohibited onsite dining.

Kansas: Starting March 30 at 12:01 a.m. to April 19, Gov. Laura Kelly ordered residents to stay home unless for essential activities such as getting food or medical care.

Kentucky: Urging residents to stay at home, Gov. Andy Beshear closed “non-life-sustaining businesses” to in-person services starting March 26 and told Kentuckians to go outside only for essential activities and exercise.

Louisiana: On March 23, residents of Louisiana were ordered to shelter in place. Gov. John Bel Edwards had previously shuttered nonessential businesses such as casinos and closed schools.

Maryland: Stopping short of calling it “shelter in place,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan told residents to remain in their homes and ordered all nonessential businesses to close by March 23.

Massachusetts: Gov. Charlie Baker directed residents to stay at home from March 24 to April 7 and ordered nonessential businesses to close during that period.

Michigan: Starting March 24 and extending for at least three weeks, the state ordered residents to stay home unless for an essential activity.

Minnesota: Gov. Tim Walz ordered residents to stay at home beginning from March 27 to April 10, and extended restaurant and bar closures until May 1. Residents may leave their homes for essential and outdoor activities as long as they practice social distancing. The state will work with local law enforcement to support the order.

Montana: Gov. Steve Bullock directed residents to stay at home from March 28 through April 10 and closed nonessential businesses.

New Hampshire: Starting March 27, Gov. Chris Sununu has ordered residents to stay at home, going out just for essential activities such as groceries, exercise or checking on neighbors who can’t go out.

New Jersey: He didn’t officially use the term “shelter in place,” but Gov. Phil Murphy directed residents to stay at home and ordered nonessential businesses to close by March 21.

New Mexico: Beginning March 24, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham instructed residents to stay at home and go out only when necessary. The governor assured residents they could still walk their dog or go on a jog. She also closed all nonessential businesses.

New York: Gov. Andrew Cuomo put his state on “pause,” stopping short of a call for a statewide shelter in place. Instead he shuttered all nonessential businesses and ordered all nonessential workers to work from home as of March 22. On March 20, the White House declared that a major disaster exists in the state. The White House on March 24 requested any New Yorker who had recently left the area to self-quarantine.

North Carolina: Except for essential activities and services — such as job, food, medicine, outdoor exercise or to help someone — residents are ordered to stay indoors, beginning at 5 p.m. March 30.

Ohio: The state requires residents to stay at home, starting March 23.

Oklahoma: Ordering residents 65 and older to stay at home, Gov. Kevin Stitt on March 24 also directed any Oklahoma resident with an underlying medical condition to stay in their homes except for essential services.

Oregon: Effective March 23, Gov. Kate Brown ordered Oregonians to stay at home, except for essential services and walks.

Utah: Stopping short of calling it a shelter-in-place order, Gov. Gary Herbert issued a “stay safe, stay home” directive through April 13.

Vermont: Gov. Philip Scott directed residents to stay at home, except for essential services and exercise, starting March 25.

Washington: Hours after the Oregon order, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on March 23 issued a similar stay-at-home order. On March 22, The White House declared a major disaster in the state of Washington, allowing it to receive federal aid.

West Virginia: Calling it a stay-at-home order, Gov. Jim Justice directed residents to stay indoors starting March 24, except for essential trips and exercise. The governor assured West Virginians a stay-at-home order is not martial law.

Wisconsin: In a series of tweets, Gov. Tony Evers said he would order residents to stay at home as of March 24.

At the regional level, cities and counties are also issuing stay-at-home orders, including Austin, Texas, Kansas City, Missouri, Miami Beach, Florida, St. Louis, San Antonio and a handful of counties in Pennsylvania.

Which states are directing quarantine?

A quarantine is specifically used to restrict the movement of someone who’s apparently well but has been exposed to a communicable disease, to limit its spread through contact.

Florida: Gov. Ron DeSantis on March 23 said he would sign an executive order requiring anyone flying from New York or New Jersey to Florida to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Hawaii: Starting March 26, anyone arriving in the state — visitors or returning residents — are required to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Kansas: The state requested that residents who recently visited California, Florida, New York or Washington or traveled on a cruise ship to quarantine in their homes for 14 days.

Rhode Island: Gov. Gina Raimondo ordered anyone arriving from any destination by plane or from New York state by car, train or bus to self-quarantine for 14 days — except public safety professionals, healthcare professionals, pilots and flight crew.

Regions with curfew orders

A curfew is one of the most stringent of all emergency measures, mandating that residents stay indoors during certain nighttime hours. It may be enforced through a fine or arrest. While New Jersey Gov. Murphy recommended on March 16 that residents stay indoors overnight, the request wasn’t part of an official curfew order.

A few regions, however, are imposing curfews, including Kaua’i county in Hawaii, where the mayor of the county used the term “curfew” to require residents to stay indoors from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.; and South Fulton, Georgia, where residents are instructed to stay in their homes between the curfew hours of 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. Exceptions include performing an essential service, delivering food or household supplies, or seeking medical attention.


Notices like this are becoming increasingly common.

James Martin/CNET

Countries on lockdown and restrictions: What it means

Lockdown is a colloquial term to broadly describe companies, states and countries that are restricting business operations, transportation and the movement of people. In Europe, a handful of countries have mandated that people stay indoors, at times threatening to enforce the restriction with law enforcement.

France: Countrywide, people are required to have a certificate to leave their home for any reason, including to buy essential supplies and for walks outside their home, including with a pet. For a business trip, they must have a signed document from an employer. People can be fined for failing to comply. International travel is also restricted.

Germany: Not on lockdown but with restrictions similar to those California, Germans are required to avoid groups larger than two people, leave their homes only for essential services and exercise and practice social distancing. Restaurants are limited to takeout and delivery.

India: Beginning March 25, Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered a 21-day lockdown, closing nonessential businesses and requiring anyone who arrived in India after Feb. 15 to self-quarantine, following local health-authority guidelines. Essential services such as grocery stores will remain open, as well as delivery services for food and medical supplies.

Ireland: From March 27 to April 12, residents are ordered to stay at home, except for essential services and brief individual physical exercise within two kilometers of home.

Italy: People also need a certificate to travel around, with checkpoints monitored by the authorities throughout the country to make sure residents comply. As in France, they can go on walks and bike rides, but are required to keep a safe distance from each other. Members of the military are assisting with containment.

New Zealand: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ordered nonessential businesses to close and instructed people to stay at home.

Portugal: While not on lockdown, in a decree by the government, people are required to stay indoors except for essential activities. Those over 70 have additional restrictions and can leave their homes only when necessary, to buy food, for example, for medical appointments and for short walks. As with many states, the government is closing nonessential businesses and limiting restaurants to takeout and delivery.

Spain: The country has closed nonessential businesses, allowing people to leave their homes only for essential services. Spain is considering using the police and military to enforce the stay-at-home mandate.

UK: Saying “you must stay at home,” on March 23 Prime Minister Boris Johnson instructed people to not leave their homes except for necessities such as groceries, medical care and once-a-day exercise. Johnson said police will have the power to enforce the new rules.

Travel bans: US and European borders closed

With a travel ban, you are restricted from visiting other countries, except for essential business.

Europe: Joining France and Italy, the European Union has closed its borders to nonessential travel for 30 days.

UK: The UK is advising residents to limit travel to countries and regions.

US: The federal government has closed its borders with Canada and Mexico for nonessential travel as well as banned travel to countries and regions it’s designated as high-risk areas including China, 26 European nations and the UK.

The front of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is shown here before a demonstration at the Paris Air Show. The 787-8 version can accommodate up to 250 passengers, the larger 787-9 can handled up to 290.

Air travel is already severely limited as a response to the outbreak.

Stephen Shankland/CNET

Essential vs. nonessential businesses and services

To curb the spread of coronavirus, many states are closing down nonessential businesses, including shopping malls, theaters, sports arenas, nail and hair salons, bars and pubs, and bingo halls and casinos.

At the same time, states are allowing businesses that provide services necessary for the health and safety of residents to stay open, including:

  • Grocery stores
  • Hardware stores
  • Stores that sell pharmacy and medical supplies
  • Food pickup or delivery (including liquor takeout from bars in some states such as New York and California)
  • Hospitals and medical centers
  • Banks
  • Gas stations
  • Pet stores

Jobs in “essential” services include those that keep infrastructure running, such as health care, food banks, sanitation, cleaning and construction. You can also drive to the gas station, walk the dog and engage in outdoor recreational exercise while practicing social distancing.

States that are restricting activities

A majority of states are restricting public gatherings, closing schools or nonessential businesses, or limiting restaurants to only takeout and delivery, including Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Maine, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Wyoming.

You don’t need to be ordered by your state or local authorities to stay safe. Here’s how to keep the virus out of your home, how to avoid misinformation about the virus and what you need to know about coronavirus treatment. If your state or region has coronavirus restrictions, let us know in a comment.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.