California has unveiled plans to issue regional stay-at-home orders for areas in the state where intensive care units are expected to fall below a capacity of 15%, with the vast majority of the state expected to meet that criteria within the next few days.
Gavin Newsom, California’s governor, announced the new restrictions on Thursday as cases in the state reached the highest reported since the pandemic began.
“The bottom line is if we don’t act now, our hospital system will be overwhelmed,” Newsom said. “If we don’t act now, our death rate will continue to climb.”
The state has been divided into five regions: northern California, the Bay Area, the greater Sacramento area, southern California and the San Joaquin valley. Every region but the Bay Area is expected to reach an available ICU capacity of below 15% within the next two days, Newsom said. The Bay Area should reach that point by mid-December.
The new stay-at-home order will include restrictions on business and gathering spaces – no salons, no gyms, no indoor worship, no playgrounds. Restaurants will be allowed to offer only take-out or delivery. Retail that is already limited to 20% will be allowed to remain open, but all non-essential travel is restricted.
Newsom acknowledged that the order will be the most restrictive since the original stay-at-home order in March. “This is the most challenging moment since the start of the pandemic,” he said at a news conference.
The nation’s most populous state has been battling to bring a surge in new Covid cases under control. The state reported 18,591 new cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the daily average to 15,121. On 2 November, the state reported just 14 Covid-related deaths. One month later, the state saw 113 deaths.
Overall, California has reported more than 1.2m cases and more than 19,400 deaths.
Meanwhile hospitals are under increasing pressure, as virus hospitalizations have nearly quadrupled since mid-October. Admissions have risen 86% in the past 14 days, Newsom said.
“Lives are in the balance,” Newsom said. “Lives will be lost unless we do more than we’ve ever done. We are being called to do everything in our power to make the kind of tough decisions that are required to get through the next few months. We will enjoy the other side of this.”