Gavin Newsom, California’s governor, speaks during a press conference in Sacramento, California
Rich Pedroncelli | Bloomberg | Getty Images
California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he was pulling “emergency brakes” on Monday due to the state’s efforts to reopen its economy as coronavirus cases rose more than they had during the summer.
“We sound the alarm,” Newsom said in a statement. “California is seeing the fastest increase in cases we’ve seen so far – faster than what we’ve seen at the start of the pandemic or even this summer. The spread of COVID-19, if left unchecked, can quickly overwhelm our health care system and lead to disastrous outcomes.”
The measure, which Newsom dubbed “Planned Emergency Brakes for a Safer Economy,” would further restrict businesses across most of the state. He said masks would now be required outside homes with limited exceptions.
Health officials said the alarming rise in cases in November came at a faster rate than the rise in mid-June and could quickly exceed the peak of hospitalized cases at that time. And it became the second state in the United States last week to exceed 1 million cases of the virus, as the United States has so far recorded more than 11 million cases.
The new rules are sure to anger business owners like restaurant and gym owners who are struggling to get back on their feet after prolonged lockdowns that have been followed by reopening that has sometimes been curtailed as cases rise.
The country blamed the rise in cases mainly on people who were tired of dealing with the virus and ignored public health warnings not to communicate with friends and family members. Those warnings were even stronger before Thanksgiving next week.
The companies complained that they abided by the rules but had to pay the price to residents who did not.
Newsom himself faced a backlash after failing to follow his own rules by attending a friend’s birthday party at the upmarket French Laundry in the wine country north of San Francisco.
Newsom’s measure, which goes into effect on Tuesday, will place most of the state’s 58 counties in the most stringent of four reopening levels, which depend on virus status and infection rates. This level shuts down many unnecessary indoor chores.
Counties with lower rates have more freedom for companies to operate, and schools are open to teach in classrooms and to formal gatherings such as religious services.
Eleven provinces were forced to operate at more restrictive levels last week. Several counties in the San Francisco Bay Area said Friday that they will voluntarily follow the City of San Francisco and ban indoor eating even though their case levels have allowed them to keep them open under state rules.
Newsom and the governors of Oregon and Washington on Friday issued a travel warning urging their residents to avoid unnecessary travel and quarantine for two weeks after arriving on the West Coast from another state or country.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown also announced a two-week freeze on Friday to limit restaurants serving only take-out food and closed gyms. She said the travel advisory could become a requirement if issues remain at current levels.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee has ordered gyms, bowling alleys, movie theaters, museums, and zoos to shut down domestic operations. Stores should limit capacity to 25%. People from various homes in Washington will be prohibited from gathering indoors unless they are quarantined.