Today, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered a statewide curfew for California to combat spiking coronavirus numbers even though California's 4.6% positive infection rate remains lower than the 9.8% positivity rate across the U.S. as a whole.
The curfew will start Saturday night at 10 pm and last until 5 am on Dec. 21, more than a full month. The move comes only days after the state imposed restrictions limiting business operations in those 41 counties, which have the most significant increases in virus cases.
More than 94 percent of Californians must remain in their homes between 10 pm and 5 am unless performing essential activities. The requirement applies to the 41 counties that have landed in the state's “purple” tier due to wide coronavirus spread. It exempts trips to grocery stores, pharmacies and food retailers, as well as workers performing essential functions, which range from health care to public safety.
The curfew applies to all of Southern California, including Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside, Orange, San Bernardino, Ventura, Santa Barbara, Kern, San Luis Obispo and Imperial counties. It affects multiple counties in the Bay Area, including Contra Costa, Alameda and Santa Clara, although not Marin County, San Francisco County, or San Mateo County, which are in California’s “red” tier.
The directive is aimed at prohibiting people from different households from spending time together past 10 p.m., even at a private residence. The order was formally issued Thursday by Acting State Public Health Officer Erica S. Pan. Coronavirus cases have doubled in the last 10 days across the state, which hit the milestone of 1 million coronavirus cases last week.
The order does not apply to thousands of people who are homeless on the streets in California cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco. The order is yet another blow to the many struggling businesses barely surviving the lockdown orders and their employees. More layoffs and business closures are expected in the wake of the order.
Newsom justified the restrictions in his statement saying that higher spread occurs during activities fueled by intoxication and late night activities. This comes as Newsom continues to try and spin a media storm of criticism over his decision to attend a birthday celebration for political operative Jason Kinney at the French Laundry, an indoor elite restaurant in Napa County with executives from the California Medical Association in violation of Newsom's COVID restriction. Attendees including Newsom did not wear masks or socially distance and the doors to the party room were closed because the noise disturbed other guests.
The state has blamed the increase in cases mainly on people who have grown fatigued coping with the virus and have ignored public health warnings to not socialize with friends and family members.
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."
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 shut down further with a new stay-at-home order. Officials have also further limited the capacity at restaurants and retail shops and the decreased the size of social gatherings.