Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday announced that Californians should expect a new stay-at-home order in the coming days if the unprecedented surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continues on its explosive trajectory.
During a news briefing Monday, Newsom said state officials are working with local public health officials to develop new restrictions on businesses and gatherings to stop the spread of the virus in counties that are under the state’s most restrictive purple tier, which now encompasses 51 of the state’s 58 counties.
The restrictions would fall in line with the state’s strictest stay-at-home order rolled out in mid-March with some modifications, according to Newsom, though he did not expand on what those modifications might entail.
“If these trends continue, we’re going to have to take much more dramatic, arguably drastic action,” the governor said.
The new stay-at-home order, which could be unveiled as early as Tuesday or Wednesday, would mark the latest restrictions placed on Californians in recent weeks as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations surge amid the largest wave seen so far in the pandemic.
Within the past two weeks, Newsom has reverted almost all of California into the state’s more restrictive tier on its reopening blueprint — forcing many businesses to shutter or move their operations outside — and added an overnight curfew on nearly all residents across the state to stop people from leaving their homes for non-essential work or gatherings late at night.
The new restrictions take effect as more Californians are in the hospital with COVID-19 than any other point of the pandemic, according to this news organization’s analysis of state hospital data.
The number of Californians hospitalized with COVID-19 has more than doubled in the past two weeks, while deaths and coronavirus cases are up 50% and 75% respectively. The state’s daily average of new cases climbed to an all-time high, nearly 14,000 per day over the past week, and the cumulative death toll reached 19,151, with an average of about 61 per day over the past week, according to data compiled by this news organization.
Without any additional interventions or changes in behaviors from Californians, Newsom said Monday that hospitalizations could double or triple in just one month. If the spike of hospitalizations continues on its current trajectory, California could reach its ICU bed capacity by mid-December statewide while the Bay Area would reach it by the start of the new year, according to state projections.
“We are looking at intensive care unit capacity as the primary trigger for deeper, more restrictive actions, because when that capacity goes away … we know the quality of care sometimes takes a dip and we see outcomes we don’t want to see,” California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said during the news briefing Monday.
This is the tipping point.
CA has worked hard to prepare for a surge—but we can’t sustain the record high cases we’re seeing.
Current projections show CA will run out of current ICU beds before Christmas Eve.
Please stay safe & stay home as much as you can for next few weeks. pic.twitter.com/5NJYzHokhE
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) November 30, 2020
Over the weekend, San Francisco and San Mateo County joined Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, Solano, Napa and Sonoma in the state’s most restrictive reopening tier marked by the widespread transmission of the virus. Marin County is the only Bay Area county that remains in the red tier, but county health officials worry it’s also on the verge of falling back into the purple tier.
Under California’s purple tier, businesses such as restaurants, gyms, movie theatres and places of worship must shut down their indoor operations and either move everything outside or close up shop. Hair salons and personal care service businesses such as massage parlors can continue to operate indoors with added safety precautions. Retail stores and shopping malls can operate at 25% capacity. Schools that have not yet opened are not permitted to return to in-person classes so long as the county they’re located in remains in the purple tier, although elementary schools can seek waivers.
Santa Clara County this weekend went further than the statewide mandates though and added a slew of new restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the virus, including a three-week ban on all professional, collegiate and high school sports, a mandatory quarantine for those traveling into the region from more than 150 miles away and new capacity limits for indoor businesses.
Los Angeles County still has the strictest stay-at-home order in place across the state. The county’s three-week order, which went into effect today, advises residents to stay home “as much as possible” and to wear a face covering when they go out. It bans people from gathering with others who aren’t in their households, whether outdoors or indoors, except for religious services or protests, which are still permitted to take place outside with certain public health measures in place.
In an effort to assist small businesses through the latest and largest wave of COVID-19, the state unveiled a new Small Business Emergency Relief Package on Monday. The relief package provides businesses impacted by the pandemic — such as hair salons, restaurants and bars — with the opportunity to apply for tax credits, tax deferrals and grant funding.
Staff writer Evan Webeck contributed to this story.