LOS ANGELES (CNS)—With COVID-19 infections surging across the state, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Nov.19 issued what amounts to an overnight curfew, prohibiting all "non-essential'' activities and gatherings between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
The "limited Stay At Home Order'' applies to all counties in the restrictive "purple'' tier of the state's COVID-19 monitoring system—which includes Los Angeles and Orange counties. The order will take effect at 10 p.m. on Nov. 21 and remain in force until 5 a.m. on Dec. 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,'' Newsom said in a statement.
"We are sounding the alarm. 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.''
According to the governor's office, the order is aimed at reducing opportunities for spread of the disease, noting that activities conducted overnight "are often non-essential and more likely related to social activities and gatherings that have a higher likelihood of leading to reduced inhibition and reduced likelihood for adherence to safety measures like wearing a face covering and maintaining physical distance.''
Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state's Health and Human Services secretary, said California is starting to experience the wave of cases that have affected other parts of the nation.
"We too are seeing this surge grow faster and faster and we must address it immediately," he said.
Ghaly said the order is not a hard curfew, indicating that people can still go outside to walk their dog at 11 p.m. if that is their normal routine. He said the idea is to cut off activities and gatherings of people that can promote the spread of COVID-19.
He said there is no definitive cause for the state's sudden surge in cases.
"There is no single culprit. It's a combination of factors. It's certainly the colder weather, more mixing, which comes with more opening. ... And of course greater travel," Ghaly said.
"We've enjoyed some events over the last many weeks. ... We had Halloween. We just exited Veterans Day. We're looking forward to other future events and activities as we go into the winter.
"We've had some things to celebrate, some things to protest, coming together in ways that we don't usually always do. All of those things create opportunities for the virus to spread, opportunities where when we've put our guard down it certainly does spread. And we know that those are factors driving this high transmission."
On Nov. 16, Newsom said he was pulling an "emergency brake'' on economic activity in the state in response to rising case numbers. As part of that announcement, 28 counties were moved back to the restrictive "purple'' tier of the monitoring system, leaving a total of 41 of the state's 58 counties in that tier.
The "purple'' tier severely restricts capacity at retail establishments, closes fitness centers, and limits restaurants to limited outdoor-only service.
Newsom said daily cases numbers in the state "have doubled just in the last 10 days. This is simply the fastest increase California has seen since the beginning of this pandemic.''
Newsom noted that the biggest increase the state had seen previously was in mid-June, when California had a 39.2 percent increase in new cases in one week.
At the start of November, the state saw a 51.3 percent increase in a one-week period, he said.
He called it an "increase simply without precedent in California's pandemic history.''
On Nov. 19, Orange County reported 582 new cases of COVID-19, raising the cumulative case count to 67,167, and nine more fatalities, hiking the death toll to 1,537 as hospitalizations continue to climb
The number of county residents hospitalized with the virus rose from 291 on Nov. 18 to 304 on Nov. 19, with the number in the intensive care unit dropping from 90 to 83, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.
The change in the three-day average of hospitalized patients went from 13.5 percent to 17.8 percent. The county has 29 percent of its intensive care unit beds and 65 percent of its ventilators available.
County officials are confident local hospitals can handle the surge.
"I think it's important to take a look at the positive COVID-19 cases in the county, but also as a percentage of those cases, how many of those are individuals who get hospitalized and also keep track of our hospital bed capacity," County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said.
Bartlett, who is also president of the California State Association of Counties, said state officials are concerned about having enough medical staff to cover its hospital beds, but local medical center executives say they are prepared for the surge.
"Right now we still have significant bed staffing in Orange County," Bartlett said. "But we need to keep track as COVID cases rise and [see] how many get hospitalized. We want to [be] sure our health care system doesn't get overwhelmed."