Newsom announces statewide stay-at-home order tied to availability of hospital beds

Order will take effect in Bay Area when intensive care unit capacity falls below 15 percent

With hospitals on the verge of being overwhelmed, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday a stay-at-home order in California that is expected to take effect in San Francisco later this month.

The order takes effect in regions when the intensive care unit capacity in the area hospitals drops below 15 percent. For the Bay Area, that is expected to occur mid to late December, Newsom said at a press conference.

The other four regions — Northern California, Greater Sacramento, San Joaquin Valley and Southern California — are expected to see the order go into effect early this month.

“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 will continue to see a death rate climb.”

A region that crosses the threshold will have 24 hours to comply and the order would last for at least three weeks.

The stay-at-home order will restrict non-essential travel and force the closure of bars, personal services, hair salons and playgrounds. Hotels can only be open for critical infrastructure support. Retailers will need to reduce their capacity to 20 percent. Restaurants will only be allowed to offer take out and delivery. Schools already opened will not have to close. Outdoor religious services would be allowed.

People can still go out to walk their dogs, exercise and make trips to the grocery store.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, California Health and Human Services secretary, said in a statement that “we know what a struggle this pandemic has been for so many California families, but our actions have saved countless lives.”

“This targeted action will preserve vital ICU beds for people who need them — whether they’re COVID-19 patients or someone who has suffered a heart attack or a stroke,” he said.

California saw 18,591 newly diagnosed COVID-19 cases Thursday and is experiencing the highest daily average of new cases, more than 15,000, than it ever has since the pandemic began. The number of those hospitalized for the illness continued to rise for a total of 8,831 patients, an 86 percent increase in the past two weeks, while there was a 67 percent increase of patients in intensive care unit beds for a total of 2,066.

The state’s positivity rate has jumped in the past two weeks from 5.2 percent to 7 percent. Deaths are also climbing fast. A month ago, on Nov. 2, there were 14 COVID-19 deaths, but California has now seen back-to-back days of 113 deaths.

Reacting to Newsom’s announcement, Mayor London Breed tweeted that “we are right now in the most dangerous time of this pandemic for our state and our region.”

“Right now we need everyone in San Francisco to once again flatten the curve,” she wrote. “Wear a mask and don’t gather with people you don’t live with, especially indoors.”

Newsom said the state was at a critical moment and appealed to residents to adhere to the order.

“We will get through this,” Newsom said. “This is the final surge. We have a light at the end of the tunnel with these vaccines. But we need to take seriously this moment.”

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