California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued impending shelter-in-place orders on Thursday as COVID-19 cases continued to soar and the state inched dangerously close to maximum capacity in hospitals.
The governor’s new approach, announced Thursday at a press briefing, divides the state in five regions and enforces stay-at-home orders in each one whenever their intensive care unit availability falls below 15%. None of the regions have crossed that threshold yet, but all are projected to within the coming weeks. Four of the five regions, excluding the San Francisco Bay Area, should anticipate the possibility of a lockdown in a matter of days.
The restrictions will largely return those regions to a state of lockdown similar to the early days of the pandemic. Bars, wineries, personal services and salons must shut down entirely. Restaurants may only be open for takeout and delivery, and retail must be reduced to a 20% capacity. All critical infrastructure and schools with a waiver may remain open.
The move is “fundamentally predicated on the need to stop gathering with people outside of your household, to do what you can to keep most of your activities outside, and … non-pharmaceutical intervention ― that is, wear face coverings, wear a mask,” the governor said.
Newsom’s decision comes as the state enters a dark new chapter in coronavirus pandemic. California is currently averaging close to 15,000 new cases per day, a 47.8% increase from two weeks ago, according to data from the Los Angeles Times. Newsom reported at his press conference that there were 18,591 new cases on Wednesday alone. Deaths are high as well.
“In the last 24 hours, similar to the previous 24 hours, we reported back-to-back days with 113 deaths,” Newsom said. “Just in the last 14 days close to 1000 Californians have lost their lives, due to COVID-19.”
The state broke the record for COVID-19 hospitalizations last week, and that number continues to rise. As of Thursday, 8,517 people were hospitalized with the disease, a figure 15% higher than the previous record in the summer.
Newsom made a grim warning that we haven’t yet seen the post-Thanksgiving spike associated with people gathering for the holiday.
“The effects of Thanksgiving, they have not yet been felt,” he said. “They will be felt in a number of weeks.”
California’s situation closely mirrors that of the rest of the country. On Wednesday, a record 100,000 Americans were hospitalized with COVID-19. Outgoing President Donald Trump still has not issued any national response to the outbreak. On Wednesday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany called plans like Newsom’s “draconian restrictions” and encouraged people to gather in groups for holiday parties.
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