Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday signaled a major retreat in the state’s two-month effort to recover from the economic collapse caused by the coronavirus, ordering the closure of bars, indoor restaurants, movie theaters and many other recently reopened businesses across California.
With infections surging in many parts of California and hospitals in some rural areas beginning to fill up, Newsom also further tightened business restrictions in 29 counties that together account for about 80% of the state’s population. Those counties, all of which are on a state watch list, must now close gyms, houses of worship, hair and nail salons, offices for noncritical work sectors, shopping malls and barbershops.
In the Bay Area, the more restrictive orders take effect in Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties. Santa Clara County officials said they would fall under the order starting Wednesday. The orders may apply to Alameda County in a day or two if metrics from its local outbreak don’t improve.
The new orders are effective immediately. Newsom did not say when they might be lifted.
Newsom, until Monday, had been hesitant to tighten restrictions statewide in response to California’s ongoing outbreak, which has been swelling since Memorial Day, when the governor first began granting permission for large swaths of the economy to reopen.
Cases have climbed dramatically since then, and the number of people hospitalized and in intensive care with COVID-19 has increased steadily. As of Monday, more than 36,000 confirmed cases had been reported in the Bay Area and 330,000 statewide. The state has been reporting, on average, more than 8,000 new cases a day over the past week.
“This virus is not going away any time soon,” Newsom said during a news conference in Sacramento County on Monday. “It’s incumbent upon all of us to recognize soberly that COVID-19 is not going away … until there is a vaccine and/or an effective therapy.”
Newsom this month had directed counties on the state watch list to close indoor restaurants, theaters, wineries, museums, cardrooms and family entertainment centers, such as bowling alleys and arcades. The governor extended that order Monday to all 58 California counties, though in most places some of those establishments are still allowed to operate outdoors, including restaurant patios.
Infectious disease and public health experts said Monday that they were relieved the governor had issued new orders. Public health officials have zeroed in on bars, with their lack of physical distancing and customer face coverings, as a major potential source of spreading the coronavirus. The new restrictions on bars require them to close all operations, indoors and out.
“I’m all for what he’s suggested. And I’m sorry it wasn’t done two weeks ago,” said John Swartzberg, an infectious disease expert at UC Berkeley. “It’s too late for all the people who have gotten infected and gotten sick and all the people who have died. But it’s certainly not too late to get control of this.”