California is reverting to strict measures to combat a new wave of the coronavirus.
Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday afternoon that he was enacting a statewide curfew, which he called a “limited” stay-at-home order, requiring all “essential work and gatherings” to stop between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
“This will take effect at 10 p.m. on Saturday and remain for one month,” the governor wrote on Twitter. “Together, we can flatten the curve again.”
This is not as extreme as the first lockdown order put in place during the early days of the pandemic, when California was the first state in the U.S. to close all non-essential business and direct people to stay at home from work and any other outside activity, beyond grocery shopping and other absolute necessities. But should the new surge in positive cases and hospitalizations not go down with the new limited lockdown and curfew, it seems likely stricter measures will be enacted.
Earlier this week, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti urged people in the city to take it upon themselves to “stay at home as much as possible” over the next several weeks, and to wear a mask whenever outdoors and avoid all gatherings, given the sudden surge in positive cases of the virus, along with hospitalizations and people in intensive care.
“The situation in L.A. is the scariest it’s ever been,” he said. “Right now is the toughest moment we’ve faced. We have no reason to believe a worst case scenario can’t happen in our city and county.”
The same day, Newsom said in a press briefing that 94 percent of the state’s populace is now under the strictest tier of its COVID-operation guidelines, covering 41 of California’s 58 counties. It’s was a sharp turn from just a few weeks ago when counties like Orange County and San Francisco County were finally progressing to less restrictive mandates.
“Due to the alarming increases we are seeing in COVID-19 cases, we’re pulling the emergency brake,” Newsom said Monday.
The number of people becoming ill with the virus in California has climbed steadily this month, along with nearly every other state in the country. But the last two days, California has counted more than 11,000 new cases per day, and nearly 10,000 cases a day for the last week. Over the last two weeks, positive cases are up 12 percent. Hospitalizations have increased 48 percent over the and people going into intensive care with the virus have increased 39 percent over the same period.
When the state started lifting some restrictions on a county-by-county basis after an early summer surge, cases in many areas had fallen below a threshold of roughly 3 percent. But the summer surge saw California cross the threshold of 400,000 positive cases of the virus. As of yesterday, the state has more than 1.05 million. That’s the second most cases in the country, behind Texas, which now has more than 1.1 million positive cases. Texas’ total population is 29 million, while California’s is 39.5 million.
Nationwide, cases of the virus are up 77 percent over the last two weeks, according to a tracker maintained by the New York Times using state and federal data, as the fall weather has brought more people inside and months of the pandemic have seen people drop their guard with gatherings, travel and facial coverings.
In California, the majority of current positive cases (60 percent) are people identifying as Latino. Many in the Latino community work in jobs that have continued throughout the pandemic, like agriculture and delivery. Meanwhile, nearly 19 percent of current positive cases in the state are people identifying as white.
And with the new state-wide restrictions on overnight business operations and gatherings, the ethnic and economic divide is likely to continue. The order will mainly effect bars and restaurants that had been starting to operate again in California over the last few months, either with capacity limits or strictly outdoor operations. Grocery stores, agriculture work and factory jobs are still considered essential, so will continue as they have throughout the pandemic.
But California now joins New York in restricting non-essential businesses from operating after 10 p.m. New York also just re-closed its public schools after a soft reopening in early fall, citing a average positivity rate among students above 3 percent.
Considering every state in the U.S. is seeing a new increase in cases, with states across the Midwest that had largely been operating as normal for months seeing the most alarming rates of infection, the Centers for Disease Control on Thursday directed the public to avoid any and all travel for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. “The safest way to celebrate is to celebrate with people in your household,” the CDC said.
Mayor Garcetti of L.A. and Mayor Andrew Cuomo of New York had already directed people this week to avoid gathering for the holiday.
“We’re alarmed,” Dr. Henry Walke of the CDC said during a press briefing, referring to the national increase in infections, hospitalizations and deaths from the coronavirus.