Fact Check: Businesses CANNOT Ignore California Governor's Shutdown Order Issued By The State Department of Public Health

Fact Check

  • by: Alexis Tereszcuk
Fact Check: Businesses CANNOT Ignore California Governor's Shutdown Order Issued By The State Department of Public Health It Is The Law!

Can businesses ignore California Gov. Gavin Newsom's shutdown order since it was issued by the state Department of Public Health? No, that's not true. The governor has issued multiple executive orders that people follow the "guidance and directives" of the public health department, and that is enforced up by legislation.

The claim appeared as a post (archived here) where it was published on Instagram July 15, 2020, under the title "Stop closing already!" It opened:

A lawyer sent this... The latest edict from governor Newsom wasn't an executive order... issued under state of emergency powers. In fact, Newsom didn't even sign it.

The post looked like this at the time of writing:

View this post on Instagram

Stop closing already !

A post shared by Tanner Rice (@tanner_the_ginger_rice) on

Newsom issued a new Statewide Public Health Officer Order on July 13, 2020, ordering businesses across the state to shut down again amid the coronavirus outbreak surge.

The California Health Department Press Office told Lead Stories via email that Newsom does have the authority to shut down businesses across the state as the number of new cases and deaths due to COVID-19 increases.


The Governor has ordered, in multiple executive orders, that people heed the guidance and directives of the public health director. Government Code section 8665 provides that any person who violates or who refuses or willfully neglects to obey an Executive Order shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction shall be punishable by a fine."


Stephen Duvarney, senior research fellow at UC Berkeley School of Law's California Constitution Center, told Lead Stories via email about the authority of the governor and the Department of Health:

The Emergency Services Act authorizes a governor to assign the Department of Public Health duties concerned with mitigating the effects of an emergency like the current pandemic. And DPH has independent statutory authority to take measures necessary to prevent the spread of a disease. Orders made by DPH under either authority are enforceable by county sheriffs and any local peace officer. Failure to comply with such orders is a misdemeanor.

County health officials also have clear statutory authority to order any preventive measure in their jurisdiction that may be necessary to protect the public health, and to take any action they deem necessary to control the spread of communicable disease. Violating such orders is also a misdemeanor."

California Health & Safety Code sections 120140 and 120155 provide the Department of Health with this authority.

From the California Emergency Services Act:

The Governor may assign to a state agency any activity concerned with the mitigation of the effects of an emergency of a nature related to the existing powers and duties of such agency, including interstate activities, and it shall thereupon become the duty of such agency to undertake and carry out such activity on behalf of the state."

Also spelled out in the Emergency Services Act are penalties for violators:

Any person who violates any of the provisions of this chapter or who refuses or willfully neglects to obey any lawful order or regulation promulgated or issued as provided in this chapter, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punishable by a fine of not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000) or by imprisonment for not to exceed six months or by both such fine and imprisonment."

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Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.


  Alexis Tereszcuk

Alexis Tereszcuk is a writer and fact checker at Lead Stories and an award-winning journalist who spent over a decade breaking hard news and celebrity scoop with RadarOnline and Us Weekly.

As the Entertainment Editor, she investigated Hollywood stories and conducted interviews with A-list celebrities and reality stars.  

Alexis’ crime reporting earned her spots as a contributor on the Nancy Grace show, CNN, Fox News and Entertainment Tonight, among others.

Read more about or contact Alexis Tereszcuk

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