Guidelines for Shelter in Place and What it Really Means

The entire world is experiencing a unique situation that is unprecedented. Many states have enacted a shelter in place policy in which they are requesting that people stay home and do not engage in social situations outside of those in their immediate families. But what are the actual guidelines for shelter in place and what does it really mean? Here are some frequently asked questions about what you can, and can not do, while your state has a shelter in place policy.

Guidelines For Shelter In Place And What It Really Means

Guidelines for Shelter in Place

Currently, there are 23 states that have ordered a shelter in place policy and 15 additional states that have some cities and counties with a shelter in place policy. Twelve states have no shelter in place policy, however, it is recommended by President Trump and other White House officials that families try to maintain social distancing as much as possible even if their state does not have an official shelter in place policy.

Each state or city that has a shelter in place policy varies in terms of specific guidelines for citizens. You can see your state or city mandates here.

In general, however, shelter in place guidelines follow the following perimeters:

  • Stay at home as much as possible- only leave your homes for outdoor exercise or for essentials like food or necessary medical appointments.
  • Telework or work from home if possible.
  • Do not engage in any social activities outside of your immediate family.
  • Do not visit any locations that gather large groups.
  • All non-essential stores and buildings are closed.
  • Do not visit friends or family.

Frequently Asked Questions about Guidelines for Shelter in Place

Shelter in place guidelines vary by state and in some cities, so they might have different specifications based on where you are located. Visit here to read the specific guidelines for shelter in place for your city or state.

Some countries, like Italy and South Korea, have or had enacted stricter shelter in place guidelines for their countries such as needing permits to leave their homes for food, walking pets, or medical appointments. South Korea was fining citizens for disregarding shelter in place orders, and Italy has arrested those who do not follow protocol. In addition, Italy is only allowing one family member at a time leave a home when going for groceries or other essential items in order to limit the number of people out in town. When the idea of shelter in place reached the United States, many believed it would cause a complete lockdown of the city or state for where they are located much like Italy or South Korea but that is not the case. Below are some frequently asked questions regarding what it means to be sheltered in place in the United States

Guidelines For Shelter In Place And What It Really Means

Frequently Asked Questions about Guidelines for Shelter in Place

Can we leave our homes?

Yes, you can leave your homes. It is requested that you only leave your home for outdoor exercise or family walks, or for essential items like food, gas, or medical appointments.

Can we visit extended family members?

No. You should not be visiting any family members that do not live in your home.

Can our kids play with neighborhood kids?

No. It is suggested that you do not let your kids with neighborhood friends or have playdates.

Read More: 15 Fun Indoor Activities for Toddlers

Can we go outside for walks, exercise, or to let our kids play?

Yes! You are able to go for family walks, runs, or to let your children play in your driveway, your backyard, or around the neighborhood as long as they maintain a 6-foot separation.

What if we need food?

You are able to go get any essentials you might need like groceries at any time, but it is recommended that only one person in your family goes to run such errands.

Can we still visit restaurants?

Restaurants are only open for carry-out or drive-thru. You cannot sit inside an establishment to eat.

How long will be state or city have a shelter in place policy?

This is largely unknown. Some cities and states have given general end dates, but it is under the condition that those dates are subject to change given the circumstances and situation at that time.

Will the military enact Marshall Law?

It is highly unlikely that the military will enact Marshall Law, or military policing over a city or state. Some people have been sharing images and video of military tanks entering cities, but this is simply the National Guard lending aid in the form of dispersing goods and providing additional services for essential organizations.

I still see my neighbors going to work- why are they allowed to?

Some businesses do not have the capability to telework but it is highly recommended that businesses enact telework for employees if at all possible. Many of those businesses are essential organizations such as fire stations, police, medical providers, grocery store workers, and gas station attendants. Some businesses like restaurants and coffee shops are also remaining open for carry-out business. Some businesses have also reduced staff, allowing some employees to still work despite the pandemic while decreasing the chance of exposure.

What stores, businesses, or organizations remain open?

Grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, and medical facilities remain open during shelter in place policies. There are also restaurants and coffee shops that are still open for carry-out and drive-thru options only. Fire, police, and emergency services are also still available.

Are playgrounds and parks available to play on as long as we stay apart?

Many parks with playground equipment and playgrounds are closed because of the virus’s ability to stay on metal and plastic for several days at a time. You should not visit a playground during shelter in place.

Read More: Get Outdoors with a Nature Scavenger Hunt

Some Outdoor Activities to Do as a Family while Sheltering in Place

Being “sheltered in place” doesn’t mean you and your immediate family can’t enjoy going outside together. It also doesn’t mean you have to avoid neighbors and friends like the plague. If your children are old enough to understand the meaning of social distancing, you can enjoy chats with neighbors from at least 6 feet away. Here are some ideas and activities you can do outside with your family (and even with friends) as long as you maintain the recommended distance of 6 feet away from one another, and congregate in groups of less than 10 people.

Guidelines For Shelter In Place And What It Really Means
  • Chalk the Walk– neighborhoods around the country are leaving encouraging messages on sidewalks with sidewalk chalk for families to see as they take walks together.
  • Family walks, bike rides, or runs.
  • Hike or take nature walks- most parks are open for public use, except for buildings and playgrounds. If you decide to take a hike with your family, try to go during a time that isn’t as busy so you can still maintain social distancing.
  • Neighborhood Bear Hunt– Set up a neighborhood “bear hunt” where families put teddy bears in windows for the kids to find while they go on a walk or bike ride around the neighborhood.
  • PE class– outside!– You can do this with neighbors or friends. On different sides of the street’s sidewalks, write different exercises like 10 jumping jacks, 5 burpees, or 15 squats in the sidewalk squares. Two families can do the exercises on each side of the street together!
  • Scavenger hunt- Go outside with a sheet like this and see how many things you can find.
  • Neighborhood fire pits– You might not be able to be around the same fire pit, but you can gather some of your neighbors together and set up fire pits 6 feet apart. Enjoy s’mores and music for a social distancing neighborhood block party.
  • Outdoor movie night- Set up a projector with a family-friendly movie and invite families to watch from their driveways or setting up family groups 6 feet apart.

As COVID-19 continues to spread, it is in your best interest to follow along with your state’s guidelines for shelter in place. Even if your state does not have an official shelter in place policy in effect, you can still do your part to enact social distancing and limiting your time outside of your home and neighborhood.

Check out this article on Coronavirus Update: What You Need to Know.

Guidelines For Shelter In Place And What It Really Means



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Lauren is a mom of three girls and a proud USMC spouse. She is the managing editor of Daily Mom Military, one half of the YouTube military spouse channel, #TheDependas, and owner of Lauren Lomsdale Creative Studios. She loves to run, lift, and do yoga in her spare time. Lauren is currently in Camp Pendleton, CA with her family and loves to meet new and inspiring military spouses.