California is preparing to impose the toughest set of coronavirus restrictions statewide since the start of the pandemic as an unprecedented surge of COVID-19 cases threatens to overwhelm the’s state’s health care system, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday.

A regional stay-home order lasting at least three weeks will be issued if regional capacity in intensive care units falls below 15% in any of the five regions: Southern California, Northern California, the San Joaquin Valley, the San Francisco Bay Area and Greater Sacramento. 

The action will mark the most drastic the state has taken since issuing its first-in-the-nation stay-home order back in March. 

Newsom says new restrictions are necessary to slow the spread of the virus as the state continues to shatter daily COVID-19 case records. At the same time, California is also seeing a spike in hospitalizations and ICU admissions, which have increased by 86% and 67% in the last 14 days. The death rate has also “increased significantly” over the past weeks, according to the governor.

He expressed concern that the state still hasn’t felt the pandemic effects of Thanksgiving, which health officials have said is expected to fuel another rash of cases. 

“[The effects] will be felt in a number of weeks,” Newsom said. “Dr. [Anthony] Fauci I think said it best. He says we should anticipate a surge on top of a surge.” 

When will the order go into effect?

While the state hasn’t imposed the new restrictions yet on any region, Newsom warned that four of the five regions are projected to reach the threshold “as early as the next day or two … as late as the next week or so.“ The lone exception is the Bay Area, which is expected to meet the trigger around mid-December. 

Once ICU capacity drops below 15% in a region, the stay-home order will go into effect and sectors will be given 48 hours to comply. Restrictions will remain in place for at least a three-week period, at which time the order will be reassessed.

The targeted stay-at-home order is not as strict as the one imposed earlier this year, but many businesses will still either be forced to close or limit capacity as a result. 

What will be closed? 

  • In-person dining
  • Indoor and outdoor playgrounds, and indoor recreational facilities
  • Personal care services, including hair salons and barbershops
  • Museums, zoos, and aquariums
  • Movie theaters
  • Wineries, bars, breweries and distilleries
  • Family entertainment centers
  • Cardrooms and satellite wagering

What will be open with restrictions? 

The following sectors can stay open with limited capacity, mandatory masks and social distancing measures in place:

  • Outdoor recreational facilities, but without food, drink or alcohol sales, and no overnight camping 
  • Retail businesses and malls, with indoor capacity limited to 20%; no eating or drinking will be allowed inside stores
  • Hotels and offices that support critical infrastructure
  • Restaurants offering takeout, pick-up or delivery
  • Places of worship can hold outdoor services
  • Professional sports and entertainment production without live audiences
  • Non-urgent medical and dental care

How will the order affect schools?

K-12 schools won’t be impacted, including classrooms that are already open for in-person classroom instruction.

How about outdoor activities?

The order itself doesn’t limit people from going outside for physical activity. The governor is urging residents to stay active and even recommended the follow activities: Going to a park or the beach; taking a hike, riding a bike or going for a run; fishing; doing yoga; walking the dog; and skiing or snowboarding.

Is travel permitted?

California is establishing a framework where non-essential travel would be temporarily restricted statewide, Newsom said.

What about personal gatherings?

Residents are being urged to refrain from gathering with anyone outside their household as much as possible, officials say. They recommend people connect virtually instead with family and friends beyond their immediate household.

Read more about the restrictions here.


By Kelley Wheeler

Kelley Wheeler is a Metro reporter covering political issues and general assignments. A second-generation journalist, worked with all major news outlet, she holds a vast expeirience. Kelley is a graduate of USC with degrees in journalism and English literature. She is a recipient of Yale’s Poynter Fellowship in Journalism.

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