California imposes new virus rules as hospitals struggle
SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – More than 33 million people in California will wake up Monday to new orders from the government not to leave their homes for at least the next three weeks except for essential purposes, forcing restaurants to offer take-out only while limiting retailers to 20% capacity as a surge of new coronavirus cases threatens to overwhelm hospitals.
The new rules took effect just before midnight for Southern California and a large swath of the Central Valley, triggered after more than 85% of beds in intensive care units were occupied in those regions.
The 11-county Southern California region’s available ICU capacity was 12.5% Saturday, a decrease from 13.1% the day before. The ICU capacity Sunday for the region was 10.3%. San Diego County had 20.5% of its ICU beds available as of Saturday.
On Sunday, the county reported 35 new hospitalizations, bringing the total to 4,871. Three more patients were placed in intensive care, bringing the total to 1,068.
The Southern California region consists of San Diego, Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside, Imperial, Inyo, Mono, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
The stay-at-home order will be in place for three weeks and prohibits gatherings of people from different households. Regions will be eligible to exit from the order on Dec. 28 if ICU capacity projections for the following month are above or equal to 15%.
On Sunday, San Diego County officials reported 1,703 new cases of COVID-19 and seven additional deaths.
That brings the total number of cases to 92,171 with 1,062 deaths.
Five San Francisco Bay Area counties voluntarily joined the rules, saying they didn’t want to wait until their capacity dropped too low to take action. Those restrictions will last until Jan. 4, a week longer than the state’s timeline.
The rules apply to more than 80% of the state’s population, and they took effect one day after California announced more than 30,000 new coronavirus cases — the most ever in a single day. The state reported more than 9,700 people were in the hospital because of COVID-19, including more than 2,200 in intensive care. The state had just over 1,500 ICU beds available as of Sunday.
Ten months into the pandemic, most of the state is now back where it started with a new stay-at-home order. But unlike in March, when the pandemic was in its infancy and California was the first state to impose such rules, fewer people are likely to obey them.
The explosive rise in infections began in October and is being blamed largely on people ignoring safety measures and socializing with others.
Under the measures, schools that are currently open can continue to provide in-person instruction. Retailers including supermarkets and shopping centers can operate with just 20% capacity while restaurant dining and hair and nail salons must close.
Under the order, indoor and outdoor playgrounds are forced to close and San Diego Mayor-Elect Todd Gloria said he is asking Governor to reconsider closing outdoor playgrounds. “I believe there is a way for us to protect public health as well as the physical and mental health of our children by keeping playgrounds open. I stand ready to work with our Governor to do that,” Gloria said on Twitter.
The state’s full stay-at-home order can be read here.