California Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday announced a new stay-at-home order in parts of the state where hospitals below 15 percent available ICU capacity.
The new order divides the state into five regions – none of which currently meet the threshold for the new restrictions.
However Newsom said four out of five regions – Greater Sacramento, Northern California, San Joaquin Valley and Southern California – are on track to hit that threshold within a few days and the fifth – the Bay Area – is expected to meet it by the middle of the month.
When they do surpass 85 percent capacity, the state will order affected regions to close hair salons and barber shops, limit retail stores to 20 percent capacity and only allow restaurants to offer take-out and delivery for at least three weeks.
The announcement comes after California broke its record for daily new cases on Wednesday with more than 20,000, bringing the state’s total to 1,264,539 with 19,437 deaths.
A record 9,702 people are currently hospitalized, including 2,147 in the intensive care unit, leaving the state with fewer than 1,800 available ICU beds.
‘The bottom line is if we don’t act now, our hospital system will be overwhelmed,’ Newsom said at a video press conference.
California Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday announced a new stay-at-home order in parts of the state where hospitals have less than 15 percent ICU capacity – as he warned that the restrictions will likely apply to the entire state within the coming days
Infections have exploded in recent weeks to the point that the state is averaging 15,000 new cases a day and the positivity rate has more than doubled, reaching seven percent in the two-week period ended Wednesday.
Newsom, who is quarantining at home after three of his children were exposed to the virus, warned earlier this week that he would take ‘drastic action’ if the numbers didn’t improve.
Public health officials have said the current figures don’t include the COVID-19 infections expected to arise from Thanksgiving holiday travel and gatherings.
Those cases probably will start showing up in hospitals around Christmas, experts say.
During Thursday’s press conference Newsom emphasized the state’s recent surge in coronavirus deaths – noting there were two consecutive days this week with a record 113 fatalities.
A month ago the state was reporting an average of less than 20 deaths per day.
California broke its record for daily new cases on Wednesday with more than 20,000, bringing the state’s total to 1,264,539 with 19,437 deaths
Under the new order, regions that hit the 15 percent threshold will have two days to comply with restrictions, Newsom said.
Residents of those areas will be required to stay home as much as possible, with a blanket ban on nonessential gatherings, but they will be allowed to continue essential activities including seeking medical care and buying groceries.
The order also allows outdoor religious ceremonies and distanced outdoor exercise such as hiking.
It does not affect schools that have already reopened for in-person classes.
Retail businesses will be limited to 20 percent capacity while all salons, museums, movie theaters, wineries, bars, casinos and amusement parks must close entirely.
‘We are at a tipping point in our fight against the virus and we need to take decisive action now to prevent California’s hospital system from being overwhelmed in the coming weeks,’ Newsom said.
‘I’m clear-eyed that this is hard on all of us – especially our small businesses who are struggling to get by.’
Newsom ramped up restrictions a week before Thanksgiving, imposing a nighttime curfew on nonessential gatherings and business in counties that are in the strictest purple tier of the state’s color-coded system for reopening the economy. Fifty-one of the state’s 58 counties are currently in that tier, comprising more than 99 percent of the population
California’s five regions
Bay Area: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma
Greater Sacramento: Alpine, Amador, Butte, Colusa, El Dorado, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, Sierra, Sutter, Yolo, Yuba
Northern California: Del Norte, Glenn, Humboldt, Lake, Lassen, Mendocino, Modoc, Shasta, Siskiyou, Tehama, Trinity
San Joaquin Valley: Calaveras, Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, San Benito, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Tulare, Tuolumne
Southern California: Imperial, Inyo, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura
Newsom’s latest order mirrors the one he imposed at the start of the pandemic in March, except that it is broken down by region rather than statewide.
The governor and members of his office acknowledged that it won’t be easy for Californians to go back into isolation, but said locking down will give the state its best chance of curbing the spread of the virus.
‘We know what a struggle this pandemic has been for so many California families, but our actions have saved countless lives,’ Dr Mark Ghaly, California Health and Human Services Secretary, said in a written statement.
‘This targeted action will preserve vital ICU beds for people who need them – whether they’re COVID-19 patients or someone who has suffered a heart attack or a stroke.’
Newsom already ramped up restrictions a week before Thanksgiving, imposing a nighttime curfew on nonessential gatherings and business in counties that are in the purple tier of the state’s color-coded system for reopening the economy.
Fifty-one of the state’s 58 counties are currently in that tier, comprising more than 99 percent of the population.
Los Angeles County was placed under even stricter rules than those set by the state on Wednesday as Mayor Eric Garcetti announced an order closing non-essential businesses, banning all travel including walking and prohibiting social gatherings outside a single household.
It came as the county – the nation’s most populous with more than 10 million residents, sees ‘terrifying’ surges in daily cases with 6,000 infections recorded Tuesday.
Garcetti’s order said Los Angeles ‘is now close to a devastating tipping point’ that could overwhelm the hospital system, ‘in turn risking needless suffering and death’.
The mayor urged police and the city attorney to enforce the order, which carries misdemeanor penalties.
This is a developing story.