/Newsom orders California curfew as coronavirus cases surge

Newsom orders California curfew as coronavirus cases surge



California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a Covid-19 testing facility Friday, Oct. 30, 2020, in Valencia, Calif.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a COVID-19 testing facility Friday, Oct. 30, 2020, in Valencia, Calif. | AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

OAKLAND, Calif. — Gov. Gavin Newsom has ordered California into a state curfew, escalating his response to rapidly rising coronavirus numbers.

More than 94 percent of Californians must remain in their homes between 10 p.m and 5 a.m. unless performing essential activities. The requirement applies to the 41 counties that have landed in the state’s most restrictive tier due to wide coronavirus spread.

“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. “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.”

The curfew will start Saturday night at 10 p.m. and last until 5 a.m. on Dec. 21, more than a full month. To explain the curfew, Newsom’s statement essentially said higher spread occurs during activities fueled by inebriation and late-night antics, warning of “social activities and gatherings that have a higher likelihood of leading to reduced inhibition.”

California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly emphasized that reasoning, telling reporters that Californians engaged in late-night activities risk spreading the virus to people with health risks.

“Many people who may be out and about between 10 and 5 are not the most vulnerable, not the oldest Californians,” Ghaly said, but “we know those who are out, who might be engaged in higher-risk behaviors, that those infections can quickly spread.”

As with previous restrictions, Ghaly indicated that California would largely rely on people choosing to abide by the rules rather than enforcing the curfew. He indicated that would fall to local authorities, noting that counties could compel people to follow the curfew “as appropriate.”

But even before Newsom issued the order, local law enforcement vowed to defy it. Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said in a statement Thursday afternoon that he would not enforce “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.” Fresno said in a statement it was counting on residents “voluntarily” complying.

The order will likely deepen resentment among those opposed to Newsom’s efforts to reimpose tough measures to contain the virus. Assemblymember Devon Mathis (R-Visalia) excoriated Newsom for a “huge overreach,” especially considering a vaccine is on the horizon.

“They’re clearly targeting people having parties,” Mathis said.

The directive appears to prohibit people from different households from spending time together past 10 p.m., even at a private residence. It does not apply to people who are homeless. The order was formally issued Thursday by Acting State Public Health Officer Erica Pan.

It exempts trips to grocery stores, pharmacies and takeout restaurants, as well as workers performing essential functions, which range from health care to public safety.

Virtually the entire state now lives in a county that must adhere to the toughest level of guidelines, slamming the door on indoor dining, church services and various forms of commerce. All of Southern California and the Central Valley, plus most of the Bay Area, must adhere to the curfew.

Newsom and public health officials have warned the state is entering a perilous new phase and have urged against large gatherings during the coming holidays.

Los Angeles had already instituted a lighter curfew that ordered businesses to shut their doors between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. starting Friday. If cases breach the 4,500 per day threshold in the county, California’s largest, there are plans to clamp down further with a renewed stay-at-home order. Officials have also further limited the capacity of restaurants and retail shops and the size of social gatherings.

Newsom is tightening his state’s restrictions as he navigates a sustained firestorm of criticism over his decision to attend a birthday celebration for a top aide and lobbyist at the French Laundry, an elite fine dining destination. Executives from the California Medical Association joined.

The backlash has extended to Capitol Hill, where Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) mocked Newsom from the House floor on Thursday for ignoring his own “idiotic Covid edicts as he partied at one of the few restaurants that’s not yet been forced out of business.” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told a POLITICO reporter that Newsom had “lost a lot of credibility.”

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