When Gov. Gavin Newsom announced plans for new strict stay-at-home orders tied to intensive care unit capacity on Thursday, we knew they would likely go into effect within days. But the speed at which available intensive care capacity in two of the state’s most populous areas fell below the 15% threshold is testament to the horrific trajectory of the coronavirus pandemic in the state.
On Saturday, the state reported that intensive care capacity in the already hard-hit San Joaquin Valley had dropped to just 8.6%, while the southern California region comprising Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside counties and San Diego had fallen to 12.5%.
In the Bay Area, where local public health officials have carried out some of the most aggressive shutdowns in the country, five counties have preemptively implemented the state’s stay-at-home order, even if he was not yet mandated by the state.
[What to know about California’s stay-at-home order.]
The new lockdowns, which took effect Sunday evening, come after a summer and fall marked by shifting restrictions that many have criticized as being unevenly enforced and of varying effectiveness.
So this time – as state and local health officials have described the spread of the virus as much more frightening and dangerous – the restrictions have been met with more skepticism in some quarters and an outright challenge in d ‘other.
Los Angeles restaurants have fought against outdoor dining closures, which county officials announced ahead of the state’s order. (More information below.)
On Saturday, streets that until recently lived with diners sitting on sidewalks or in parking lots were quieter, but shoppers still flocked to grocery stores and congregated outside restaurants waiting for take-out.
In Orange County, where local officials and residents have been more violently defiant over the restrictions, Sheriff Don Barnes issued a statement saying his office would not enforce state order.
“Compliance with health orders is a matter of personal responsibility, not a matter of law enforcement,” he said.
Restaurants in the sprawling southern suburb of Orange County were serving diners indoors as recently as Friday, though the county was supposed to shut down indoor dining rooms last month.
Gov. Newsom has repeatedly said the state will try to take a slight step in carrying out its warrants, but may withhold aid money from counties that refuse to comply.
Still, experts said the lack of bite built into state orders leaves many workers vulnerable.
[Read more about how the pandemic has shown why health equity is critical.]
Ana Padilla, the executive director of the University of California, Merced’s Community and Labor Center, said in an email that, as in previous state lockdowns, the new order was probably the most effective in controlling the virus. in communities with many intermediaries. class workers who can work remotely.
“It will do less for workers who have no choice but to work in essential low-wage jobs, in which they frequently come into contact with others,” she said.
Over the summer, the center released an analysis that showed a link between counties, particularly in the San Joaquin Valley, that have high concentrations of low-wage work and the prevalence of the virus. And communities in the San Joaquin Valley have long struggled to access health care, even before the pandemic cast a harsh light on the region’s scarcity of hospital beds.
[If you missed it, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. picked California’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, to lead the Department of Health and Human Services at a crucial time.]
Ms Padilla and other experts have said for months that many low-paid workers have had to choose between making a living and risking their lives in jobs where employers may not be transparent about outbreaks and offer benefits that would allow workers to take. free time to isolate yourself.
She acknowledged that the state had recently taken steps to protect workers, but said the question was whether those policies would be rigorously implemented and enforced.
“It looks like we need a full Covid-19 policy just as much as a home order,” she said.
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Why Los Angeles banned outdoor dining
Marie Tae McDermott wrote this dispatch, on the basis of Los Angeles County’s contested ban on outdoor dining:
Even before the state announced broader restrictions, officials ordered Angelenos to stay home except during essential activities and to ban gatherings of more than one household.
“It’s time to calm down,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said last week. “It’s time to undo everything.”
This comes in addition to Los Angeles County’s ban on alfresco dining, issued on November 25, which has already affected tens of thousands of restaurant owners and their employees.
“We know that we ask a lot from so many people who have sacrificed themselves for months,” Barbara Ferrer, director of public health, said last week. “Acting with collective urgency now is essential if we are to stop this wave.”
But the decision to close outdoor restaurants met with stiff opposition. The California Restaurant Association challenged the ban in court, saying the county was not providing any scientific basis for the shutdown.
And on Wednesday, a judge ordered Los Angeles County health officials to show evidence that would justify the ban earlier this week.
[Read more about the fight over outdoor dining in Los Angeles.]
Some towns in the county like Lancaster, Whittier and West Covina are now questioning whether they should open their own health services so that they are no longer under county jurisdiction. Beverly Hills City Council voted unanimously to oppose the county health order. Health officials in Pasadena, which already has its own health department, decided not to follow the county’s outdoor dining ban when it was announced. On Sunday evening, restaurants in Pasadena closed all outdoor dining after the stay-at-home state order was ordered.
[Track Covid-19 cases by California county.]
Opponents of the ban claim it will deal a fatal blow to thousands of establishments in an already struggling industry.
But Dr Anne W. Rimoin, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, Department of Epidemiology and director of the Center for Global and Immigrant Health, said these were difficult but necessary restrictions.
“Restaurants are places where people are together in gathering places without masks for long periods of time,” said Dr Rimoin.
This risk of transmission is compounded, she said, by the fact that dining tables are often made up of people from multiple households.
“We have an incredible increase in cases,” said Dr Rimoin. “We are trying to do everything we can to save lives.”
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Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, graduated from UC Berkeley and has reported statewide, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles – but she always wants to see more. Follow us here or on Twitter.
California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from UC Berkeley.