California Governor Gavin Newsom threatened to impose "drastic" new measures upon Californians on Monday in response to a large rise in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, the Associated Press reported.
Daily coronavirus diagnoses in the state have increased by nearly fivefold between the beginning and end of November, while hospitalizations have increased 90 percent in just two weeks. "The red flags are flying in terms of the trajectory in our projections of growth," Newsom said in response.
Most concerning for Californian officials is the dwindling capacity remaining in intensive care units. ICUs are operating at 75 percent capacity in the state of California, with nearly a third of patients there due to coronavirus. Under current trends, ICUs in the state could reach 112 percent capacity before Christmas.
The massive spike in cases comes despite increasingly stringent lockdown measures enacted in 51 out of 58 Californian counties, accounting for over 90 percent of the state's population. Under the "purple" restrictions, small businesses deemed "non-essential" have found themselves involuntarily shuttered, individuals are prevented from being out between 10 pm and 5 am due to curfews, and most social gatherings are restricted.
Some experts have criticized the efficacy of lockdowns with regard to public health, questioning whether they really do much to prevent the spread of the virus. Coronavirus infection rates have skyrocketed across North America, whether a region has strict or lax restrictions or enforcement.
There is concern that lockdowns and restrictions cause more harm than good, resulting in serious mental health challenges for both children and adults. One in four Americans have reported suicidal thoughts. Rates of drug overdoses have also increased dramatically across both Canada and the United States during the coronavirus pandemic.
Many observers have questioned the authoritarian nature of California's restrictions with many pointing to Los Angeles, where officials have declared their intention of cutting off water and electricity to homes which violate social gathering restrictions.
Officials in California, including Governor Newsom, have also attracted criticism for flaunting their own lockdown orders. Newsom was photographed at a restaurant in Napa, California in November dining indoors with a group of lobbyists despite calling for state residents to abandon their traditional Thanksgiving gatherings this year.
Meanwhile, California is promising economic relief to businesses affected by the shutdown including extensions on sales tax payments and half a billion dollars in grants to small businesses across the state.