Shelter-out-of-place?

View of Windsor Castle from the River, by Unknown Author

The question on everybody’s mind is will we (in USA in general and in the Santa Clara County, CA in particular) be celebrating our resurrection from the self-imprisonment at this Easter.

Considering how both the political and contamination vectors have been bending during the previous month, the answer, most likely, is “we will not”.

It leads to another two important questions, which are to be addressed in this short article: first, how long will this self-imposed tabu on most types of economic activities last; second, if it lasts long enough what are legitimate ways to move to an office opened to those, who, for one reason or another, can’t work from his/her home, or from the “shelter” (whatever that means).

Obviously, this question is supposed to be answered by, primary, lawyers. However, as we can see now, not many of those are rushing to publicly advise us on how to legally treat this unique situation. The reason, I guess, is that it is truly unique. So, it leaves its comprehension to each and everyone of us, individually. Therefore, note, that in this piece I venture to apply my own reasoning to this calamity and this is, obviously, not the legal advise.

Looks like gov officials has dubbed this upheaval a “special situation”, which is an equivalent to a natural disaster like a flood or a hurricane. However, there’s a very important difference between the naturally occurring inundation and non-cellular entity spread. The former evokes people to be protected from an external threat, the later — people to be safeguarded from each other.

That’s legally unprecedented under the existing US Constitution because anyone might now be accused and condemned before proven guilty in the name of the “public safety”. However, because we do not have any real legal precedents to the current events in the modern history (the closest analogue is the Spanish flu, 1918- 1920) all official decisions can be the subject to a future lawsuits from multiple parties, which might soon start to face an ultimate economic ruination. That makes all public officials and state bureaucrats very caution in issuance what they carefully and ambiguously call “guidances”.

It starts with, so-called, “The president’s guideline for America” (https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/03.16.20_coronavirus-guidance_8.5x11_315PM.pdf), which then led to “Memorandum on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19 Response” issued March 19 by “Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency” (CISA) (https://www.cisa.gov/sites/default/files/publications/CISA-Guidance-on-Essential-Critical-Infrastructure-Workers-1-20-508c.pdf).

The later document gave life to “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers” document (https://covid19.ca.gov/img/EssentialCriticalInfrastructureWorkers.pdf), which must serve (allegedly) as a basis for all Santa Clara law enforcers (primarily The Santa Clara Police Department) actions aimed at curtailing the “reported violations” of local and state official “shelter-in-place” ordinances.

Of course, enforcers are now living through the “honey moon” period with the mass-media and general public opinion, which overwhelmingly treats this situation as an “invaders from Mars” type of condition by giving to a police pretty much a carte blanche. That will not last long and some wiser and more experienced state administrators understand it better that others.

Therefore, it’s now pretty much case by case (or from county to county) for those of us, who wants to know how police will treat (or ignore completely) the above-mentioned guidelines in a case of an individual stop-and-frisk.

From some external data sources (f.e. https://www.santaclaraca.gov/i-want-to/stay-informed/current-topics/coronavirus-updates) corroborated by my own personal, observations (no visible road blocks, no highway stops, not even more than usual police cars on streets) the Santa Clara County Sheriff (consisting from 1429 Deputy Sheriffs, Correctional Deputies and Correctional Officers) belongs to the smarter and more foreboding part of the bureaucratic spectrum.

For example, Santa Clara gov site, which publishes regular “COVID-19 Updates”, among others contains the following (dated 3/24/2020):

“ … The Santa Clara Police Department is responding to calls of reported violations and handling them by educating the public and/or business owner about the “Stay-at-Home” order. Over the last week, Police have responded to approximately 30 calls about alleged violations of the shelter-in-place order, such as people who are not household members playing basketball in parks.”

As we can see it says “educating” and “playing basketball” — and not “holding on a gun point” businesses owners. Of course, nobody knows how this mild policy will change if we have a “zombie apocalypse” on our hands or Washington DC politicians will simply “loose it” faced by the growing fallout rate among celebrities and the purely mathematical progression of tested cases.

That’s hard to predict, but we’ll leave it to our faith into the traditional American common business sense, which (as history demonstrates) usually and always prevails over all other considerations.

Now, what about those “Essential Workers” status? Might somebody among us — entrepreneurs and non-gov business owners — be qualified as such? Yes, of course, we might (if each of us firmly believes in a feasibility of his / her own interpretation of the above-mentioned guidances). There are, however, some more obvious and less obvious occurrences of such.

For example, if you’re a worker “that performs critical clinical research needed for … “ you can argue for it if stopped by an uniformed patrol-person by flashing your Stanford Med issued id-card or producing from your back-seat some of the appendages of your craft (f.e. a sub-microscope or something). However, if you are “Data center operators, including system administrators”, which handle critical infrastructure — that persuasion might take some time and frustrate an uniformed person, specially if he/she stands under the pouring rain.

Nonetheless, the above-mentioned official ordnances provide more than enough ammunition to venture that for a strong-willing party, with enough economical motivators and an absence of medical reasons to stay at home, even without referring “to going to a grocery / a bank / a doctor” universal excuse (which, of course, will not work in a case of a police intrusion into an office, and, yes, they are discouraged to do that by their own rules — they only can call you to get out from your office to streets now).

No doubts that the most appropriate paragraph applicable to IT business-person / coders / managers is the following part defined in the “Essential Workforce — Communications” section:

Extract (1): “Customer service and support staff, including managed and professional services as well as remote providers of [support to transitioning employees to set up and maintain home offices], who interface with customers to manage or support service environments and security issues, including payroll, billing, fraud, and troubleshooting”

Basically, if you can prove (f.e. show your business card or a print out of your site) that you have several (there’s no definition in official docs how many) “home offices employees” to take care of, it means that your presence in the office is essential to eliminate the need for many people to “group together”. Therefore it makes it important for you to work at your office from the stand point of “public health safety”.

There are also another paragraph marked “Essential Workforce — Information Technology:” which contains the following:

Extract (2): “Data center operators, including system administrators, HVAC & electrical engineers, security personnel, IT managers, data transfer solutions engineers, software and hardware engineers, and database administrators”

Extract (3): “Workers supporting the provision of essential global, national and local infrastructure for computing services (incl. cloud computing services), business infrastructure, web-based services, and critical manufacturing”

Btw, there is not “blockchain” word mentioned even once in those several official directions I’m citing. However, there’s this (under the “Financial Services” section):

Extract (3): “Workers who are needed to provide consumer access to banking and lending services … “

Obviously, it might be difficult to explain to a patrol-person standing outside of your car what is crypto-currencies and how it relates to “banking and lending services” specially at a rainy night. It might, although, work better in an “office raid” type of situation.

So, be not frighten but wise in choosing your type of a protective force-field while venturing outside from your warm bed (if you’re fortunate to still have one) into this increasingly more hostile to all types of entrepreneurship world.

Next question: why should you do that?

That’s very personal, indeed. By all means I can not encourage you to do that under the present idiosyncratic conditions. If you believe that this “shelter” situation will be resolved in a couple of weeks, then, sure, treat it as the early Christmas vacations and enjoy your family life (or, at least, video games).

On the other hand, if by nature you’re less disposed to be optimistic then you’ve already noticed that there are many subtle indications (from schools and colleges already prescribed to stay close at least till May to a military hospital ship harbored in LA until September) that this emergency will not be off anytime soon.

Consequently, if you’re not gov / corporate employee, expected to be indefinitely sponsored by the Treasury printer, and you’re not thinking this wonderful “1500 monthly check” (or UBI) to cover all of your life expenses (or to even reach you before it’s too late) you will be force by circumstances to do something else sooner rather than later, I guess.

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