LOS ANGELES – Again citing rising coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths over the past month, Gov. Gavin Newsom Thursday announced plans for a “regional stay-at-home order” that will be implemented in areas running low on intensive-care unit beds.
The order would be triggered when ICU bed availability in a select region falls below 15%. Although no region met that criteria as of Thursday, Newsom said the Southern California region could meet it in a matter of days.
Unlike the state’s four-tiered coronavirus monitoring system, which grades every county individually, the new stay-at-home order will apply more broadly to five “regions” in the state: Southern California, the Bay Area, the greater Sacramento area, Northern California and the San Joaquin Valley.
“The five regions that we have highlighted, most of these, four out of the five, we anticipate as early as the next day or two … that the greater Sacramento, Northern California regions, as well as San Joaquin Valley and Southern California region will have reached that 15% or less ICU capacity,” Newsom said. “The Bay Area may have a few extra days — our current projections suggest mid-, maybe late-December.”
Newsom stressed that ICU admissions due to COVID-19 have spiked by 67% in recent weeks, in conjunction with a statewide surge in cases that has also seen a disturbing rise in fatalities. He said the state reported just 14 deaths on Nov. 2, but now has had back-to-back days of 113 deaths, with nearly 1,000 fatalities in last four days.
“The bottom line is, if we don’t act now, our hospital system will be overwhelmed,” Newsom said. “If we don’t act now, we’ll continue to see the death rate climb, more lives lost.”
When triggered, the stay-at-home order will be in place for three weeks and will bar gatherings of people from different households. It will also force the closure of all bars, wineries, personal service businesses, hair salons and barbershops. Schools with waivers will be allowed to remain open, along with “critical infrastructure” and retail stores, which will be limited to 20% of capacity. Restaurants will be restricted to takeout and delivery service only.
Newsom said the order 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, of course, always … wear face coverings, wear a mask.”
Newsom also noted that the state still has a travel advisory in place recommending against non-essential travel and urging people to quarantine when they return to the state. When the regional stay-at-home order is triggered, it will strongly urge residents to cancel any non-essential travel.
The governor stressed that the pandemic emergency won’t last forever.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel,” Newsom said. “We are a few months away from truly seeing real progress with the vaccine. … We do not anticipate having to do this once again. But we all really need to step up. We need to meet this moment head on and we need to do everything we can to stem the tide, bend the curve and give us the time necessary by bending that curve to get those vaccines in the hands of all Californians all across the state.”