UPDATE: JANUARY 25, 2021 – Officials in Sacramento today lifted the regional stay-at-home orders that have been in place since November. The state will now return to the county-by-county tier system that was used prior to the winter surge.
“California is slowly starting to emerge from the most dangerous surge of this pandemic yet, which is the light at the end of the tunnel we’ve been hoping for,” said California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly.
State projections claim that ICU capacity in the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California regions–the most-strained parts of the state–will reach the 15 percent threshold that had been established for the regional orders at some point in the coming four months. Currently, ICU capacity in Southern California remains at zero. How state officials arrive at their projections has not been fully clarified to the press.
Current ICU capacity in several regions of the state has begun to rebound. In the Bay Area region, 23.4 percent of ICU capacity is available; in the Northern California region, which was never placed under the regional order, that number is 41.2 percent.
UPDATE: DECEMBER 29, 2020 – The stay-at-home order imposed by the State of California on areas with dangerously low health care capacity has now been “extended indefinitely” for the Southern California and San Joaquin Valley regions.
When the order was put in place, it came with a three-week timeline, after which it would expire or be extended, depending on how conditions had developed.
“We, essentially, are projecting that the ICU capacity is not improving in Southern California and San Joaquin Valley, and that demand will continue to exceed capacity,” Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s Health and Human Services Secretary, said at a briefing on Tuesday.
The current order will now remain in effect until ICU capacity projections for a given region meet or exceed 15 percent, regardless of how long it takes to get to that point. And, particularly given reports of significant holiday travel, demand on hospitals will likely remain high for some time.
UPDATE: DECEMBER 6, 2020 – With Southern California ICU beds 89.7 percent filled, the region has exceeded the threshold required to implement the new regional California stay-at-home order. It will stay in effect through at least December 28.
Provisions of the new order are in effect as of 11:59 p.m. on Sunday December 6 for all counties within the state-designated Southern California region: Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Bernardino, Inyo, Imperial, Mono, and San Diego.
The new California stay-at-home order has also been triggered for the San Joaquin Valley region.
Allowed Under the Regional California Stay-at-Home Order (100 percent masking and distancing still required):
- Outdoor recreation and exercise, including parks, beaches, and walking
- Retail and shopping centers: 20 percent capacity, entrance metering required, no eating or drinking inside, special hours for vulnerable persons encouraged
- Hotels and lodging to accomodate essential workers and provide housing, not non-essential travel
- Restaurants for takeout and delivery service
- Outdoor religious services
- Outdoor political demonstrations
- Entertainment industry productions (no live audiences allowed)
- Drive-in movie theaters
- Child care services
- Schools (existing guidelines remain in effect)
- Health care including non-urgent medical and dental services
Closed Under the Regional California Stay-at-Home Order:
- Personal care services including hair salons
- Movie theaters (except drive-in)
- Wineries, breweries, and distilleries
- Sports with live audiences
- Overnight stays at campgrounds
- Amusement parks
- Cardrooms and satellite wagering
- Family entertainment centers
UPDATE: DECEMBER 3, 2020 – California Governor Gavin Newsom announced new restrictions for some of the state’s most pandemic-ravaged regions, the Los Angeles Times reports. The new health order goes into effect on Saturday, December 5.
These additional restrictions will be applied to a region when 85 percent or more of ICU capacity in that region is filled. Southern California’s ICU capacity was 79.4 percent filled as of December 3, and could be subjected to the new restrictions as early as Sunday. If trends continue as they have in recent weeks, much of the state will soon follow.
The new order is generally similar to what is currently in place in Los Angeles County, including a ban on on-premises dining and all gatherings of non-household members. It then goes beyond L.A.’s previous rules by closing personal care providers such as hair and nail salons, closing wineries and breweries, and banning overnight camping at campgrounds. Hotels may continue to operate, but “for critical infrastructure support only,” not general tourism. Retailers are capped at 20 percent capacity for in-store shopping.
When enacted, the order will initially last for 21 days. During that time, public health authorities will be monitoring hospitalization rates, health care capacity, and other key indicators, to determine next steps.
“The bottom line is, if we don’t act now our hospital system will be overwhelmed,” Newsom said on Thursday. “If we don’t act now, we’ll continue to see our death rate climb, more lives lost.”
— Office of the Governor of California (@CAgovernor) December 3, 2020
NOVEMBER 19, 2020 – The state of California has issued a new “limited stay-at-home” order for all counties currently listed on the Purple Tier, including Los Angeles County. The new order also comes with a nightly curfew, which will go into effect on Saturday and be in place through at least December 21.
“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,” Governor Gavin Newsom said on Thursday. “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.”
Due to the rise in #COVID19 cases, CA is issuing a limited Stay at Home Order.
Non-essential work and gatherings must stop from 10pm-5am in counties in the purple tier.
This will take effect at 10pm on Saturday and remain for 1 month.
Together–we can flatten the curve again.
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) November 19, 2020
This new curfew order goes beyond the “business curfew” established by Los Angeles County, which primarily applies to bar and restaurant service. Under this guideline, all non-essential activities and gatherings of any kind must cease between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
Under the soft curfew status, essential businesses such as grocery stores, pharmacies, and restaurant take-out and delivery operations, will continue to be allowed during the nighttime hours. It is also fine to go outdoors for limited outdoor exercise or pet care.
The real target of the order is socializing and gathering. Experts have expressed a great deal of concern that, with cases already escalating, social gatherings, such as for Thanksgiving, could quickly become super-spreader events. In these kinds of settings, either at home or at outdoor dining facilities, participants are more likely to be less careful about masking, distancing, and other protocols.
“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 health care system,” said Dr. Erica Pan, the state’s acting Public Health Officer.
As of now, it is unclear what authorities will be responsible for enforcing the curfew, and what consequences might exist for those who break the rules, particularly the limitations on socializing at private homes.
“I know it’s hard to imagine how to enforce some of this. You may say, ‘Well, how am I ever going to be known, if I’m doing that at home?'” Dr. Mark Ghaly acknowledged at a press briefing, describing a more informal approach to enforcement. “We’ve always depended on a partnership with you.”
Sheriffs departments in multiple counties including Los Angeles and Orange County have affirmed that they do not intend to actively enforce the curfew. In a tweet, L.A. County Sheriff Villanueva said that authorities are “focused on education and voluntary compliance, with criminal enforcement measures being an extreme last resort.”
This approach is consistent with how public health orders have been enforced throughout the pandemic. Response efforts have primarily targeted non-complying businesses, not individuals, and prioritized public health-based consequences such as warnings and utility shut-offs, rather than police actions. Large house parties or other gatherings that were already in violation of health orders prior to the curfew order are expected to be handled in the same manner as previously.
The statewide announcement comes just hours after Los Angeles County reported a record-breaking 5,031 new cases of the disease. That is the highest single-day total since testing began.