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Day One Of Coronavirus Shelter-In-Place Leaves San Francisco A Ghost Town

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- A shelter-in-place order affecting approximately 7 million people in the San Francisco Bay Area on Tuesday left city streets empty, stores and businesses shuttered and residents hunkered down in their homes in a desperate attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The order that went into effect at midnight early Tuesday left only "essential" businesses open -- including grocery stores, financial institutions, pharmacies, hardware stores and gas stations.

The city of San Francisco found itself at the start of a strange, unprecedented era Tuesday. The shelter-in-place order arrived with confusion and some puzzlement. There was also the somber realization that this was just the beginning.

The streets and sidewalks were eerily deserted almost everywhere a visitor could go in the city..

"The neighborhood is strange, sort of surreal," said Derek Spreckelmeyer in the city's Castro District. "There's nobody on the normally vibrant and bustling streets."

"Yeah, I think it's tough to sustain this," added Rick Smith in the Marina. "Right now were in total shut down. Total shut down. Everybody's home, or walking home."

There were no cable cars operating by order of the SFMTA and no crowds in Union Square. The handful of people present were sufficiently distanced from each other. Pick any spot in the city that's usually packed with people and chances were on Tuesday that you'd find only a very few.

"I find it very comforting, not seeing a lot of people going crazy," said Jerry Bollinger, who was visiting from Dallas. "They're just hiding away."

For anyone actually looking for people in San Francisco, the best bet might be going for a run as joggers took to popular routes in the Marina. It appeared some residents of the city could be headed for some weight loss over the next three weeks. Others indulging in food delivery services as they remain indoors, maybe not."We decided to try being open for take out and delivery only,"  Spreckelmeyer explained, serving up a slice of pie to go at The Cove on Castro.

One great divergence in the city Tuesday was restaurants that decided to close and those that have decided to keep serving."One of my customers, for a $43 sale, left me a $50 tip," Spreckelmeyer said, noting the community's generosity.

One bit of traffic on quiet streets was the explosion of delivery drivers. Anyone entering an essential business that remains open will be reminded to keep their distance. Even routine things felt new Tuesday.

"I think people are good with what's going on right now, at least for a while,"  Smith said of the city's patience. "Shut it down for a few weeks. Shut it down. Beyond that, all bets are off."

That sentiment echoed across town in the notices posted at shuttered businesses, love letters to customers from heartbroken owners on Day 1 of this great uncertainty.

"It's been a strange day,"  Spreckelmeyer said of the start of the shelter-in-place. "But the bottom line is we've got a community here. We have people coming together. We will get through this. We've gone through hard things. This is another one. I'm hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst."

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