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California Governor Gavin Newsom Issues Limited Stay-At-Home Order Through December 21; “We Are Sounding The Alarm”

Deadline logo Deadline 11/19/2020 Tom Tapp
Gavin Newsom wearing a suit and tie © State of California via YouTube

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In light of an unprecedented, rapid rise in COVID-19 cases across California, Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday announced a limited Stay-at-Home Order. The order requires “generally that non-essential work, movement and gatherings stop between 10 PM and 5 AM in counties in the purple tier.” That means basically every county in Southern California and 94% of the state’s population (see map below).

Said Newsom in a statement: “This is the same as the March Stay at Home Order, but applied only between 10 PM and 5 AM and only in purple tier counties that are seeing the highest rates of positive cases and hospitalizations.”

The state recorded a near-record number of daily COVID cases on Thursday, at 11,478. The all time high of 12,807 came on July 27. The state’s 7-day average of new daily cases now stands at 9,665. The number of patients hospitalized in the state rose on Thursday to 5,319, a 4.5% jump in just one day. Hospitalizations are up 63% over the past 14 days, according to the state’s director of health and human services, Dr. Mark Ghaly. COVID-related ICU admissions are up over 40% in the same period.

Newsom noted that the previous biggest increase in daily case numbers was in mid-June, when California had a 39.2% increase in new cases in one week. At the start of November, the state saw a 51.3% increase in a one-week period, he said.

He called it an “increase simply without precedent in California’s pandemic history.”

Ghaly said that the Thursday order will “target activities that are particularly high risk while minimizing disruptions in social connections.”

The word “generally” in the announcement could provide some wiggle room for Newsom and company to exempt certain industries moving forward.

In fact, Newsom’s office confirmed to Deadline late Thursday that film and TV production is exempt from the order, as the entertainment industry’s workers are considered essential. Read the updated list of essential workers here.

Per the Sacramento Bee:

People will still be allowed to perform essential tasks like walking their dog, picking up prescriptions at the pharmacy or getting takeout at restaurants, according to a source in the Newsom administration. But nonessential businesses and activities will be prohibited. For example, restaurants will have to close up their outdoor dining by 10 p.m.

Ghaly confirmed this in his presentation.

The Bee also reported that local law enforcement will enforce the restrictions.

Sacramento County’s sheriff, Scott Jones, has reportedly already said he will not enforce the order.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva issued a statement via Twitter Thursday night saying he is aware of the order, but will largely rely on the public to comply voluntarily.

“Since the first Stay At Home Order was issued in March of this year, we have focused on education and voluntary compliance, with criminal enforcement measures being an extreme last resort,” Villanueva wrote. “We trust in the community and rely on people to assess risk and take precautions as appropriate.”

Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes issued a statement saying his agency was “assessing the governor’s order” and would be more focused on “emergency calls.”

“Throughout the pandemic, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department has taken an education-first approach with regard to the public health orders,” Barnes said. “We are currently assessing the action by the governor. At this time, due to the need to have deputies available for emergency calls for service, deputies will not be responding to requests for face-coverings or social gatherings-only enforcement.”

When asked what the state’s reaction to such resistance would be, Ghaly said the state has its own “enforcement tool” that could be employed.

Newsom’s announcement comes just minutes after Los Angeles County’s health officer, Dr. Muntu Davis, announced the county saw an all-time high in daily cases on Thursday, at just over 5,000. That puts the two-day average of new cases at 4,500, a number which, if it continues for 5 days, will result in local lockdown measures in L.A.

The state order will take effect at 10 PM Saturday, November 21 and remain in effect until 5 AM December 21.

Ghaly said that, because of the increased prevalence of the virus, activities we did a month ago are now more dangerous.

He announced that activities such as eating together, where you cannot keep your mask on the whole time, have become more dangerous. Ditto activities like board games, where you are sitting closer than six feet to another person.

“The virus is spreading at a pace we haven’t seen since the start of this pandemic and the next several days and weeks will be critical to stop the surge. We are sounding the alarm,” said Governor Newsom. “It is crucial that we act to decrease transmission and slow hospitalizations before the death count surges. We’ve done it before and we must do it again.”

But, Ghaly warned, if the surge does not stop, “All tools are on the table. We will expose further restrictions” if the tide cannot be turned.

This limited Stay at Home Order is designed to reduce opportunities for disease transmission. Activities conducted during 10 PM to 5 AM are often non-essential and more likely related to social activities and gatherings that have a higher likelihood of leading to reduced inhibition and reduced likelihood for adherence to safety measures like wearing a face covering and maintaining physical distance.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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