OAKLAND, Calif. — California regions will face stay-at-home orders when their hospital capacity shrinks to an alarmingly low level under a new plan Gov. Gavin Newsom’s health chief described to state lawmakers Thursday morning.
In a region where rising cases threaten to overwhelm limited intensive care unit capacity, residents will be directed to remain in their homes unless they are conducting essential activities, California Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly told lawmakers, according to a source familiar with the details. One trigger point is 15 percent of ICU capacity within a given region.
Newsom will divide the state into five geographic regions and lockdowns would last for three weeks minimum, based on the briefing. Residents would be unable to gather, while playgrounds, salons and restaurant dining would have to close. Food takeout would still be allowed, while hotels could only open for critical infrastructure support.
Lawmakers were not told if any region has yet reached the threshold for a stay-home requirement. Newsom is scheduled to hold a press conference at noon.
The governor has escalated California’s restrictions in recent weeks as the state’s test positivity rate and hospitalizations continue mounting at unprecedented rates, thrusting the state into what Newsom has called the pandemic’s most perilous phase. The governor has already clamped down by pulling 52 of 58 counties into the most stringent tier of restrictions, slamming the door on various forms of commerce and gatherings and issuing a nighttime curfew.
Schools could still remain open when their regions get locked down, based on a memo that school administrators issued this week.
A renewed stay-at-home mandate, which Newsom has telegraphed for days, would represent the governor’s most aggressive attempt yet to get ahead of a winter surge. Any regional lockdown would return residents to restrictions they endured in the spring after Newsom issued the nation’s first statewide stay-at-home order.
Public health experts credit California’s broad adherence to the March order with protecting the state’s health care system from collapse and averting more deaths.
But the state’s population may be less inclined to obey a second lockdown as pandemic fatigue collides with misbehavior by Newsom and other officials who have admitted to dining at restaurants or in large groups even as they urge Californians to avoid similar gatherings.
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