By Robert Klasfeld

In the midst of the coronavirus, or COVID-19, pandemic, new terminology has been thrown at us on a daily basis: Stay-at-home. Safer-at-home. Shelter-in-place. Lockdown. Martial Law.

These terms, which have become commonplace, refer to government measures intended to compel residents to stay in their homes and limit movement as COVID-19 spreads across the globe.

But, do they all mean the same thing? The short answer is no. Let’s take them one at a time.

Stay-at-Home Order

The Stay at Home order calls for just that — staying at home.

It requires everyone living in the city, county or state to limit travel outside the home only to essential activities and for outdoor exercise. That raises the question of what qualifies as essential activities. The answer varies between jurisdictions. In California, for example, essential services include convenience stores, laundromats, and take-out restaurants. In France, wine stores are considered essential, and in Italy newsstands remain open. Nonetheless, even the most restrictive stay-at-home orders allow banks, gas stations, pharmacies, and grocery stores to remain open.

As of Friday morning, 21 states have announced statewide stay-at-home orders. A number of cities and counties have also announced similar measures, including Miami-Dade County.

Safer-at-Home Order

Safer-at-Home orders are very similar to Stay-at-Home orders. Residents are required to stay at home as much as possible. However, non-essential businesses may remain open so long as they self-police when it comes to social distancing.

Shelter-in-Place Order

Shelter-in-place orders are more restrictive. These measures close all nonessential businesses, prohibit their employees from leaving their homes to work, and have the potential for fines or imprisonment if violated. However, the definition of “nonessential” may vary depending on the specifics of the order. Shelter-in-place orders are traditionally used by local officials in response to natural or environmental threats, like a tornado or a chemical spill.

In recent weeks, state and local officials have retooled the measure to help limit the spread of COVID-19 by mandating residents stay in their homes and limit travel to essential trips. Some shelter-in place orders have provisions permitting residents to walk or exercise outside in public spaces, so long as they stay 6 feet away from others.

On Thursday, Broward County Administrator, Bertha Henry, issued a Shelter-in-Place order closing all non-essential businesses.


A lockdown is a much stricter order, which could involve not being able to leave a certain area at all, or having a curfew. Lockdowns are most often utilized in response to something like an