UPDATE: Newsom announces regional stay-at-home order amid COVID-19 surge

Gov. Gavin Newsom. Courtesy of the Office of the Governor
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Original story posted: 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 3

Most recent update: 5 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 3

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a new regional stay-at-home order Thursday, aimed at getting residents to stay home as much as possible in areas hardest hit by the COVID-19 surge, with the Southern California region that includes Los Angeles County on track to be placed under the order in the coming days.

“The bottom line is, if we don’t act now, our hospital system will be overwhelmed,” Newsom said. “If we don’t act now, we’ll continue to see the death rate climb (and) more lives lost.” 

This comes as record-breaking figures followed Newsom’s statement Monday that California was considering the possibility of a stay-at-home order in purple-tier counties should figures continue to rise. Currently, 51 of the state’s 58 counties are in this tier, including L.A. County. 

Instead, the new stay-at-home orders are expected to be grouped by regional hospital networks, rather than individual counties, and are set to take effect within 48 hours when the available ICU capacity in a region drops below 15%.

There are five regions: Northern California, Greater Sacramento, Bay Area, San Joaquin Valley and Southern California.

Newsom said four out of five of these regions are projected to fall below 15% ICU capacity in the next couple of days, though specific metrics for each region have yet to be released as of the publication of this story.

The order includes the following restrictions:

  • A ban on all gatherings among people who don’t live in the same household.
  • The closure of some non-essential businesses, including:
    • Indoor and outdoor playgrounds.
    • Indoor recreational facilities.
    • Hair salons and barbershops.
    • Personal care services.
    • Museums, zoos and aquariums.
    • Movie theaters.
    • Wineries.
    • Bars, breweries and distilleries.
    • Family entertainment centers.
    • Cardrooms and satellite wagering.
    • Limited services.
    • Live audience sports.
    • Amusement parks.
    • Outdoor recreational facilities: Allow outdoor operation only without any food, drink or alcohol sales. Additionally, overnight stays at campgrounds will not be permitted.
    • Retail and shopping centers: Allow indoor operation at 20% capacity with entrance metering and no eating or drinking in the stores. Additionally, special hours should be instituted for seniors and others with chronic conditions or compromised immune systems. 
    • Hotels and lodging: Allow to open for critical infrastructure support only.
    • Restaurants: Allow only for takeout, pickup or delivery only. No dine-in permitted.
    • Offices: Allow remote only except for critical infrastructure sectors where remote working is not possible. 
    • Places of worship and political expression: Allow outdoor services only.
    • Entertainment production, including professional sports: Allow operation without live audiences. Additionally, testing protocol and “bubbles” are highly encouraged.

The following sectors are allowed to remain open when a remote option is not possible with appropriate infectious disease preventative measures, including 100% masking and physical distancing:

  • Critical infrastructure. 
  • Schools that are already open for in-person learning.
  • Non-urgent medical and dental care.
  • Child care and pre-K.

The order is set to remain in effect for at least three weeks once imposed by the state, and after that period, is expected to be lifted when a region’s projected ICU capacity meets or exceeds 15%, which is assessed on a weekly basis.

This order almost mirrors L.A. County’s modified “Safer at Home” order, which went into effect Monday, though with a few more restrictions, including the closure of personal care services, hair salons, barbershops and campgrounds for overnight stays. 

In addition, Newsom announced non-essential travel is temporarily restricted statewide, which recommends travelers arriving into California from other states or countries, including returning California residents, self-quarantine for 14 days after arrival. Californians are also encouraged to stay home or in their region and avoid non-essential travel to other states or countries.

L.A. County Health Services Director Christina Ghaly said Wednesday the county anticipates a shortage of ICU beds over the next four weeks, following that statement up Thursday by adding that the county anticipates reaching the threshold for the regional order early next week.

As of Thursday, 599 patients with COVID-19 were in the ICU across the county — excluding the cities of Pasadena and Long Beach — with only 140 total ICU beds still available, according to Public Health data.

This would mean that L.A. County is very close to dropping below the 15% ICU capacity threshold needed to institute the order, though it is unclear exactly where the Southern California region stands as a whole.

“This reflects the number of beds that we have available today, right now, not the numbers that can be created through additional staffing or by canceling elective surgeries and procedures,” Ghaly said Wednesday. “While hospitals will use all of the tactics available to them to be able to increase the staffing and supply of beds, please know that those resources are not unlimited. Staffing is tight, and it’s tighter than it normally would be in a hospital, because all hospitals have staff that are out on quarantine, who are out sick, caring for themselves or family members, or who are in isolation themselves.” 

Los Angeles County is currently under a modified “Safer at Home Order” that bans gatherings, reduces occupancy limits at certain non-essential businesses and closes playgrounds and card rooms. Restaurants are limited to take-out and delivery service only.

On Wednesday night, the city of Los Angeles announced its own stay-at-home order. While it was originally reported that all non-essential businesses were required to halt in-person operations, the actual order released Wednesday night outlined a number of exceptions, including retail stores, which “may operate, after implementing the county of Los Angeles Department of Public Health Protocols for Retail Establishments Opening for In-person Shopping.”

Alex Comisar, a spokesman for L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, confirmed Thursday that the city’s order, in fact, mirrors the modified “Safer at Home” order in effect countywide. 

“It’s exactly the same,” Comisar said.

“Right now, with so many cases of COVID-19 in our communities, the risk is extremely amplified,” L.A. County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said during Public Health’s media briefing last week. “To slow this disease at this point, limiting certain activities that could easily result in many additional cases, like outdoor dining at restaurants and reducing the numbers of people indoors in other settings, is trying to get our case rate lower so that we can move to a less restrictive tier and reopen more businesses.”

Both the county and state’s COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have reached an all-time high this week, with the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 more than doubling in the past two weeks.

In California’s health care system as a whole, 59% of the total number of hospital beds were occupied as of Monday, with state Public Health officials projecting that hospitals could reach 78% capacity by Christmas Eve. 

— Signal Staff Writer Tammy Murga contributed to this report.

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