Virus spike prompts big California about face on reopenings

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday ordered bars and indoor dining at restaurants to close in most areas of the state for the next three weeks amid a troubling surge of new coronavirus cases throughout the state.

The revised stay-at-home order affects 19 counties where nearly three-quarters of the state’s roughly 40 million people live — including Los Angeles County.

Newsom says indoor operations at restaurants, wineries and tasting rooms, family entertainment centers, movie theaters, zoos and museums and cardroom gambling businesses must close. Bars were ordered to close both indoor and outdoor operations.

“The bottom line is the spread of this virus continues at a rate that is particularly concerning,” Newsom said.

The order came just days ahead of what is expected to be a busy Fourth of July weekend for the state. That worried public health officials because people were expected to gather in larger numbers than they have for months after the state relaxed its stay-at-home order allowing more businesses to open.

Newsom did not order beaches to close, but said parking lots at all beaches in Southern California and the San Francisco Bay area would close to limit crowds. State parks – which include some beaches – will remain open, but with measures in place to reduce overcrowding.

Newsom said the new business closure order applies to counties that have been on the state’s monitoring list because of increasing coronavirus cases for three consecutive days: Contra Costa, Fresno, Glenn, Imperial, Kern, Kings, Los Angeles, Merced, Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Joaquin, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Solano, Stanislaus, Tulare and Ventura.

But enforcing the new rules will be difficult, Newsom said. He said seven state agencies with regulatory authority would target non-compliant businesses, including the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, the Department of Consumer Affairs and the California Highway Patrol.

And he suggested that state officials would first try to convince non-compliant businesses to cooperate instead of penalizing them.

“It’s more education. I’m not coming out with a fist. We want not come out with an open heart, recognizing the magnitude of some of these modifications,” Newsom said.

Confirmed coronavirus cases in California have increased nearly 50% over the past two weeks. Of greater concern to officials is the steady growth in the state’s COVID_19 hospitalizations – a 43% increase over the past two weeks.

Many local California governments have delayed reopening or have imposed extra restrictions as cases rose. Officials in Los Angeles County closed beaches for the Fourth of July weekend before Newsom announced his restrictions and Fresno County in the state’s Central Valley agricultural heartland had already ordered all bars to close.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

Gov. Gavin Newsom gives an update on the state’s initiative to provide housing for homeless Californians to help stem the coronavirus, during a visit to a Motel 6 participating in the program in Pittsburg, Calif., Tuesday, June 30, 2020. Newsom announced that more than 15,000 rooms have been acquired and more than 14,000 people have been given places to stay statewide under the Project Room key program started in April. The governor also said he plans to announce on Wednesday plans to “toggle back” the states stay-at-home order. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, Pool)
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