Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the state’s most aggressive measures since March to avert the coronavirus pandemic, saying he would impose broad region-by-region stay-at-home orders when hospitals are overcrowded.
With cases and hospitalizations on the rise in the state, Newsom described the move as a last push to get through a tough winter before vaccines arrive.
“This is the last wave,” he said at a press conference. “This is the most difficult time since the start of this pandemic.”
New orders will take effect when intensive care units in hospitals in a region reach more than 85% of their capacity. None of the state’s five regions have reached that threshold yet, but some are expected to do so this week, officials said.
[See which counties are in each region, and find out which activities are exempted here.]
Residents will be required to stay at home except for essential chores and outdoor exercise. Most businesses will have to close, including in-person meals, trade shows and sporting events. Hotels in affected areas will only be allowed to operate “in support of essential infrastructure services”.
Religious services will be allowed outside, and all schools allowed to reopen will be able to continue operating.
To change from the strict state-imposed stay-at-home orders in the spring, Mr Newsom said parks and beaches will remain open, and he encouraged residents to get out and use them, and even to take outdoor fitness classes.
Some cities and counties in the state have already imposed new restrictions as cases have exploded. Los Angeles County issued a similar stay-at-home order last week. Although some municipalities in the county hesitated, such as Pasadena and Beverly Hills, the city of Los Angeles followed through on its own strict order to stay home earlier on Thursday.
“My message couldn’t be simpler: it’s time to curl up,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles. “It’s time to undo everything. And if that’s not essential, don’t.
Mr Newsom spoke on Thursday from his home, where he was still in quarantine after three of his children came into contact with someone who later tested positive for the virus. His office said on Wednesday that a staff member had also tested positive, but had not been in recent contact with Mr Newsom.
Californians have been on a kind of emotional roller coaster since the start of the pandemic, stroking between relief that the state’s early stay-at-home orders have helped contain the virus and the alarm that cases have to again increased despite a slow reopening adapted to the conditions of each county.
[Read about the state’s reopening tiers.]
On Monday, leaders said new restrictions were in the works, and the governor released dire projections showing that without them, the state’s intensive care units would be overloaded by the middle of this month. Hospitals in hard-hit areas like the San Joaquin Valley, where many poorly paid essential workers live in overcrowded conditions, have been filling rapidly for weeks.
“It’s all on the table, in terms of how we guide the state through this,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, California Secretary of Health and Human Services on Monday.
But after hearing for months that businesses can operate safely outside and with the proper precautions, many Californians are against further restrictions. And a growing list of elected leaders have been caught flouting the rules they urged their constituents to follow.
As in March, the rollout of new restrictions, particularly in Los Angeles County, has been confusing and their enforcement has been patchy.
Mr Newsom said Thursday, as he has repeatedly done in the spring, that the state will withhold money from counties that refuse to enforce stay-at-home orders.
Of all the many industries rocked by California’s reopenings and closures in recent months, restaurants have perhaps felt some of the most severe lashes. Restaurants in Los Angeles County had been serving diners outside – safely, it seems – for months, when they were ordered to close as cases skyrocketed and that hospitals were filling up. And now another, wider restaurant stop is likely imminent.
If you work in a restaurant, we want to hear from you. If you lost your job, could you have been unemployed? Did you return to work when the restaurants reopened? Do you feel safe working outdoors?
Email us at CAtoday@nytimes.com and we can reach out to you to talk more.
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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.