Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced a mandatory overnight stay-at-home order that will be instituted throughout most of California to combat a surge in new coronavirus cases, a measure that comes just days after the governor enacted a dramatic rollback of reopening in much of the state.
The order issued by the California Department of Public Health will prohibit most nonessential activity outside the home from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m in counties in the strictest tier of the state’s reopening roadmap — the purple tier. The restriction goes into place on Saturday and lasts through Dec. 21, though it could be extended.
“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 a statement released Thursday afternoon. “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.”
Roughly 94% of Californians — 37 million people — live in counties that are in the purple tier, which has forced many businesses in those communities to suspend or severely restrict the number of customers allowed indoors.
The state has reported more than 10,000 new daily cases four times since last Thursday. California has not experienced a daily case count this high since the outbreak began, even during the surge in the summer that stands as the state’s deadliest time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are asking Californians to change their personal behaviors to stop the surge. We must be strong together and make tough decisions to stay socially connected but physically distanced during this critical time. Letting our guard down could put thousands of lives in danger and cripple our healthcare system,” said Dr. Erica Pan, the state’s acting public health officer.
The decision is similar to efforts made to slow the virus in Los Angeles County, which announced earlier this week that restaurants, breweries, bars, wineries and nonessential retail establishments would close from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. beginning Friday.
More than 4,300 people were hospitalized with a confirmed case of the virus statewide as of Wednesday, marking a 61% increase from two weeks ago. Los Angeles County reported 5,000 new cases Thursday — a single-day record since the pandemic began.
Aside from the limited nighttime hours, the restrictions will be similar to those in the statewide stay-at-home order Newsom issued in mid-March, which were later replaced by the state’s four-stage reopening plan. Californians in the affected counties will still be allowed to buy groceries, pick up restaurant takeout orders, visit doctors or other healthcare providers and other providers of essential services.
Response to the Newsom administration’s action was swift Thursday afternoon, particularly from his Republican critics. Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said he will refuse to enforce the new order.
“The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office will not be determining — including entering any home or business — compliance with, or enforcing compliance of, any health or emergency orders related to curfews, staying at home, Thanksgiving or other social gatherings inside or outside the home, maximum occupancy, or mask mandates,” Jones said in a statement.
Assemblyman James Gallagher (R-Yuba City), who filed a legal action challenging one of Newsom’s earlier coronavirus orders as unconstitutional, said the new action will “further decimate struggling businesses.”
“The governor likes to tout that his actions are scientifically driven, but evidence simply does not support such drastic action limiting people’s freedom,” Gallagher said in a statement. “This virus does not suddenly come out at night, and there is little evidence that shifting businesses’ operating hours has any impact.”
Earlier in the day, Newsom also took heat from a fellow Democrat, Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo of Los Angeles, before the latest restrictions were announced. Carrillo is under fire for flying to Maui this week for a conference with other legislators.
“My intent to be very clear and transparent is to find solutions on how we can safely live through COVID-19, how we can safely reopen our economy, help small businesses and restaurants and better inform the public amid continued contradicting and constantly changing information from Gov. Gavin Newsom,” she said in a statement about her trip.
The governor announced the curfew as he faces scrutiny over his own behavior during the new surge in cases. Newsom apologized this week for attending a Nov. 6 dinner party at the French Laundry, where he joined people from other households and several lobbyists at the upscale Napa Valley restaurant to celebrate the 50th birthday of a close friend.
Newsom said on Monday that the party was held “outdoors,” a description that was contradicted when pictures of the event surfaced the next day.