California will impose a “limited” but mandatory stay-at-home order and overnight curfew on most residents in a ramped-up effort to slow a spike in COVID-19 cases, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday afternoon.
Starting this Saturday night, non-essential work, movement and gatherings will be prohibited between the hours of 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily, according to a news release from the governor’s office. The order will last a month and is set to expire at 5 a.m. on Dec. 21, but it could be extended as needed.
The order will impact all counties in the most-restrictive purple tier, which includes every one in Southern California.
“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,” Newsom said in the release. “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.”
The new stay-at-home order is more targeted than the first one imposed back in March, which impacted every county and was in effect around the clock.
This one is limited to late-night and overnight hours because that’s often when people are more likely to engage in social activities and gatherings that could lead to an increased risk of transmission, the release explained.
Under the latest order, nonessential businesses must close by curfew, but essential businesses — such as grocery and drug stores — can remain open after hours, officials said.
Restaurants will also be allowed to offer takeout after 10 p.m., and residents can still walk their dogs and perform some other routine activities even during the curfew.
People experiencing homelessness are exempt from the curfew restrictions.
In an afternoon news briefing, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly credited the order back in March in keeping the number of cases down at the beginning of the pandemic.
“We saw its impact back in March, those difficult days adjusting to the reality of COVID. But that kept us ahead of the curve,” he said. “And just like then, today’s actions will help us bring down transmission and flatten our curve, this time in a very important and urgent way.”
The order was issued just days after the state imposed tougher restrictions on numerous businesses and sectors amid a rapid acceleration of COVID-19 infections statewide.
California on Thursday reported 11,478 new cases of coronavirus over the previous 24 hours, the state’s highest single-day number to date during the pandemic. The seven-day average has ticked upwards to 9,665, according to Ghaly.
The state’s testing positivity rate has also increased at a concerning rate, nearly doubling to 5% over the past 14 days in just a few weeks, Ghaly said.
But California is hardly alone in seeing a surge of new infections. The virus hasn’t spared any part of the U.S., Ghaly noted, pointing to record-high rates of hospitalizations and people entering intensive care in virtually every region of the country. On top of that, more than 1 million new cases have been reported nationwide in just the last seven days.
“We have to take care of the urgency of the day, and in California, as we’ve enjoyed lower rates of transmission, lower number of cases, we too are seeing this surge growing faster and faster, and we must address it immediately,” Ghaly said.
On Monday, Newsom pulled the “emergency brake” on reopening the state’s economy and announced that 30 of the state’s 58 counties would be pushed back to more restrictive phases in the the state’s four-tiered system that has guided sector reopenings since August.
Orange and Ventura counties, which had previously been in the red tier — the second-most restrictive stage — were among those that moved backward.
Forty-one counties in total are currently in the purple tier, accounting for 94% of the state’s population, according to the release.
Earlier this week, California health officials also strengthened the state’s mask mandate, requiring Californians to wear a face covering while outside their homes, with a limited number of exceptions.
And late last week, the state issued a travel advisory urging people entering California to self-quarantine for 14 days after the state became the second in the U.S. to surpass 1 million coronavirus cases, after Texas.
Without the new and enhanced measures, officials said they fear there will be an “unprecedented surge” in hospitalizations if COVID-19 cases continue to rise sharply, something that could overrun the state’s health care system.
Hospitalizations have already climbed roughly 64% in the last two weeks, while the number of ICU beds occupied has increased by 40.5% over the same period, Ghaly said Thursday. He added that approximately 12% of people who test positive for the coronavirus today will likely be in the hospital in two to three weeks.
Officials are also concerned that Thanksgiving next week will only exacerbate the situation, with people heading out to celebrate the holiday with friends and family after largely being isolated from others for months.
Because of that, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday updated its guidance for Thanksgiving, advising Americans to avoid traveling and canceling their plans if possible in favor of a smaller celebration limited to members of their immediate household.