Nearly three-quarters of California counties must now operate under the state’s most stringent pandemic restrictions, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Monday, and health officials are considering a statewide curfew as coronavirus cases surge more dramatically than they did during a summer spike.
Indoor dining, gyms and movie theaters, among other businesses, must either remain closed or shut down in 41 of the state’s 58 counties, Newsom said Monday. The governor said he is “sounding the alarm” due to “the fastest increase California has seen” since the pandemic began.
Coronavirus cases have doubled across the state in the last 10 days, officials said. Cases rose 51.3% in the first week of November. California hit the grim milestone of 1 million coronavirus cases last week.
Newsom said he is considering invoking a statewide curfew, but will review studies of impacts of curfews in other countries, state and cities to understand effectiveness prior to making a final decision.
Los Angeles County health officials are considering a similar approach after record-breaking cases this weekend, saying they may consider imposing a curfew and other health measures in effort to stem spread of the virus. The county recorded 3,780 new cases of the virus Saturday, the highest one-day total since the peak of the crisis in mid-July. On Sunday, officials reported 3,061 new cases and three deaths.
Newsom said he anticipated even more restrictions coming Friday.
The new rules are certain to rankle business owners such as restaurateurs and gym owners who have been struggling to get back on their feet after lengthy shutdowns followed by reopenings that have at times been curtailed as cases have risen.
The state has blamed the spike in cases mainly on people who have grown fatigued coping with the virus and have ignored public health warnings to not socialize with friends and family members. Those warnings have been more forceful in advance of Thanksgiving next week.
Businesses have complained that they have played by the rules yet had to pay the price for residents who didn’t do so.
Newsom himself has faced blowback after failing to follow his own rules by attending a friend’s birthday party at the opulent French Laundry restaurant in wine country north of San Francisco.
In response to criticism, Newsom apologized to Californians.
“I made a bad mistake,” he said Monday. “Instead of sitting down, I should have stood up, walked out, got in my car and drove back to my house. Instead, I sat there…the spirit of what I am preaching all the time was contradicted. So, I want to apologize to you because I need to both practice and preach.”
Changes to state’s tiered reopening system
While California’s infection rate remains lower than the U.S. as a whole, officials fear the fast-growing rise in cases will keep accelerating and place more pressure on hospitals as flu season and the holidays approach.
Compared to the nation’s 9.8% positivity rate, California’s 4.6% rate can seem less alarming. However, Newsom said not to “be misled by our lower rate,” because “our rate of increase is alarming.”
Under the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, which is its four-tiered, color-coded system for reopening, the state can tighten restrictions based on emergency situations. New rules added Monday to the tier system dictate that:
- Counties will now move tiers after one week of increased COVID-19 cases instead of waiting two weeks.
- Some counties will move back multiple tiers if they are experiencing a significant increase.
- Businesses must shut down within 24 hours, instead of 72 hours when counties move tiers.
- The state will announce tier changes twice a week, instead of once a week.
Purple, red, orange, yellow: How do California’s new COVID-19 tiers work?
Newsom’s action, which takes effect Tuesday, will put most of the state’s 58 counties in the strictest of the four-tier system for reopening that is based on virus case and infection rates. There are now 41 counties in the most restrictive purple tier, 11 in the red tier, four in the orange tier and two in the yellow tier.
Last week, there are 13 counties in the most restrictive purple tier, 22 in the red tier, 17 in the orange tier and six in the least restrictive yellow tier.
In line with this uptick in cases, COVID-19 hospitalizations across the state have also increased 48% over the past two weeks, officials said. Intensive care unit hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients have increased 39% over that same time period.
“Why are we sounding this alarm using our emergency brake? Because we must keep our transmission rate low to not flood our health care system,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, the California Health and Human Services secretary.
Based on prior data tracking, Ghaly said 12% of new COVID-19 cases reported Monday will end up in the health care system within two to three weeks. Looking at the 9,890 new cases reported on Monday, that means 1,186 of those cases are likely to end up in a hospital bed.
California travel restrictions already in place
The governors of California, Oregon and Washington issued travel advisories Friday urging people entering their states or returning from outside the states to self-quarantine to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Newsom’s office said.
The advisories urged people to avoid non-essential out-of-state travel, ask people to self-quarantine for 14 days after arriving from another state or country, and encourage residents to stay local, a statement said.
Travel advisory: California urges residents to avoid non-essential travel
Is it safe to travel for the holidays? This COVID-19 risk map can help you decide
“California just surpassed a sobering threshold — one million COVID-19 cases — with no signs of the virus slowing down,” Newsom wrote. “Increased cases are adding pressure on our hospital systems and threatening the lives of seniors, essential workers and vulnerable Californians.”
Four days prior to the state announcement, San Francisco and 10 other health officers in the Bay Area issued a joint advisory, urging residents to self-quarantine for two weeks should they leave the region, especially if they’ve traveled on a plane or train where people did not wear masks at all times. Some counties also say the recommendation also applies to people traveling into the region from outside the area.
Are other states locked down?
States across the nation are also issuing stricter rules.
Thirty-five states — plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico — now require people to wear face coverings in public statewide, according to a list maintained by AARP. Utah and North Dakota joined the list in recent days, and Maine, Ohio and West Virginia strengthened their mandates this week.
And on Friday, the governors of New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia announced additional coronavirus restrictions.
Check out this map: States that are reopening or reimplementing restrictions
Lockdowns: A list of restrictions in your state
Additionally, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer on Sunday announced a three-week closure of indoor dining at restaurants and bars, closure of the Detroit casinos and suspension of in-person learning for high school and college students, along with other measures aimed at bringing down surging coronavirus numbers.
Also on Sunday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced new restrictions on businesses and social gatherings for the next month. Fitness facilities and gyms, bowling centers, movie theaters, museums, zoos and aquariums must close. Retail stores — including grocery stores — must limit indoor capacity to 25%. Restaurants and bars will be limited to to-go services or outdoor dining with tables seating no more than five people.
Inslee also said indoor social gatherings with people from more than one household are prohibited unless attendees have quarantined for 14 days beforehand or tested negative for COVID-19 and quarantined for seven days. There’s no enforcement mechanism for indoor get-togethers, but Inslee said he hopes people will follow the order.
USA Today, the Associated Press and Tribune News Service contributed to this report.
Desert Sun reporter Nicole Hayden covers health in California. She can be reached at [email protected] or (760) 778-4623. Follow her on Twitter @Nicole_A_Hayden.
This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Newsom considering statewide curfew as he orders emergency business shutdowns