Newsom reveals what California’s impending stay-at-home order will look like

California Gov. Gavin Newsom introduced Thursday the framework for a regional stay-at-home order, with the expectation that most of the state will fall under the more stringent requirement in days, with the Bay Area lagging a week or two behind. No regions have been placed into this regional stay-at-home order at this time.

Newsom said the state has created five regions by grouping counties based on hospital networks: Bay Area, Greater Sacramento, Northern California, San Joaquin Valley and Southern California.

Regions will be required to implement shutdown rules when intensive care unit capacity falls under 15%, and the governor said state projections show all regions except the Bay Area reaching this point in early December. It’s estimated the Bay Area will follow in mid- to late December.

Regions that fall under the stay-at-home order will have 48 hours to close several business sectors including all dining (both indoor and outdoor), bars, wineries, personal services, hair salons and barbershops. The order expires three weeks after it is implemented but can be extended.

“If we don’t act now, California’s hospital system will be overwhelmed and our death rate will continue to climb,” Newsom said.

The new order shares some similarities with one the governor issued March 19 at the start of the pandemic, but is also different in many ways.

What was closed in March but can stay open now

In March, Newsom’s shelter-in-place order closed most businesses across the state, leaving exemptions for only “essential businesses” such as hospitals, grocery stores, gas stations, farmers markets, banks, laundromats and restaurants for takeout and delivery only.

This time around, the framework allows for schools and retail businesses to remain open in addition to the essential businesses that were allowed to remain open in March.

Furthermore, Newsom encouraged individuals to exercise outdoors and participate in outdoor activities, specifically mentioning going to the beach, fishing, skiing, biking, hiking and running. This guidance likely means that outdoor businesses such as golf courses, tennis courts and outdoor gyms can remain open.

What is currently open in purple tier counties now that must close

The most restrictive purple tier actually allows for a number of activities that were closed both in March and over the summer when the state used the “watch list” system.

Currently, outdoor dining, outdoor gyms and outdoor worship, as well as indoor retail, hair salons, barbershops, nail salons and massage studios, are allowed to operate in purple tier counties.

Under the new framework Newsom introduced, outdoor dining and all personal care services must cease operations — both indoor and outdoor — once regions move into a stay-at-home order. The governor also stated that bars and wineries will have to cease all operations.

News of the stay-at-home order comes as California experiences the highest rate of increase in COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, and in the next week an explosion of new cases from Thanksgiving travel and gatherings threatens to overwhelm the health care system.

The state is on the verge of seeing a “surge on top of a surge,” Newsom said.

The seven-day average in new daily cases was 15,121 on Thursday, compared to 9,881 at the height of the July summer surge.

Deaths are climbing and Newsom noted that on Dec. 2, there were 113 fatalities reported, compared with 14 on Nov. 2.

The state is implementing a record number of tests with an average of more than 200,000 a day. As testing increases, the positivity rate (the percentage of people who test positive for the virus of all of individuals who are tested) becomes a key metric and shows the uptick in cases isn’t explained by increased testing.

The state’s rate was 7% on Thursday, more than double what it was a month ago.

California is responding to these numbers by “pulling the emergency brake,” Newsom said.

Amid the surge, the governor called on people to stop gathering with people outside their household and to avoid all non-essential travel.

You can watch Newsom’s press briefing here.

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