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"Non-essential activity carries a serious risk" during COVID-19 surge, California's health secretary warns

California warns against non-essential activity
California officials say non-essential activity carries a serious risk 14:05

California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly gave a coronavirus update on Tuesday to explain the latest on new infections and hospitalizations, and he stressed the need for the regional stay-at-home order to curb the spread of COVID-19. Millions of Californians are on virtual lockdown as the state's outbreak rages.

"Transmission is now so widespread across the state that every non-essential activity carries a serious risk," he said. He noted the state was able to flatten its COVID-19 curve in March due to "early and decisive" action.

The state's regional lockdown affects Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley after the available ICU bed capacity in those areas dropped below 15%. The order bars nearly all public gatherings and limits capacity in the retail and grocery stores that are allowed to remain open, CBS Los Angeles reports.

Ghaly said residents are still able to visit their doctor, and he encouraged everyone to get a flu shot. He discouraged Californians from traveling and said it's "explicitly restricted" in the regions under the regional stay-at-home order.

On Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom posted to Twitter the Northern California region had an ICU bed capacity of 28.2% while the Bay Area had 25.7%. Greater Sacramento stood at 20.3% with the San Joaquin Valley at 6.3% and Southern California at 10.9%.

Meanwhile, Ghaly said California is reporting a 14-day positivity rate of 8.7%, a 55% increase since November 24 when it was 5.6%. He also reported the state's COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased 70.8% over the last two weeks, totaling 10,567. ICU hospitalizations have increased 68.7% over the last 14 days, totaling 2,417.

"We are at a pivotal moment in our fight against COVID," Newsom tweeted Monday. "Wear a mask. Be careful."

An emergency alert was issued across California on Tuesday, December 8, 2020, to warn residents of the regional stay-at-home order that went into effect Sunday night. Peter Martinez / CBS News

In a sign that the state is taking the COVID outbreak seriously, a mass text alert was sent out across California moments before Ghaly held his press conference. CBS LA said the Wireless Emergency Alert was sent to the following Southern California counties: Imperial, Inyo, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura.

The alert stated that "COVID-19 is spreading rapidly" and urged people to stay home and to wear a mask when in public.

California became the second state after Texas to report 1 million coronavirus cases since the pandemic began. In total, the U.S. has reported more than 15 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 285,000 deaths, per a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

On the bright side, there are three potential coronavirus vaccines showing promise, and two awaiting authorization from the FDA. State and federal officials have begun announcing ambitious distribution plans to get vaccines to millions of Americans starting as soon as next week.

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