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California curfew goes into effect Saturday as COVID-19 cases spike

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COVID-19 vaccine distribution faces logistical challenges 02:07

California is imposing a nighttime curfew starting Saturday as spiking COVID-19 cases threaten to swamp health care systems and the state's largest county warned that an even more drastic lockdown could be imminent.

The newest restrictions require people not on essential errands to stay home from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. through December 21, with a possible extension if rapidly worsening trends don't improve. People will be allowed to shop for groceries, pick up food and even walk their dogs.

Authorities say the focus is on keeping people from social mixing and drinking — the kinds of activities that are blamed for causing COVID-19 infections to soar after dipping only a few months ago.

Dr. Mark Cullen, an infectious disease expert,  said the underlying goal is based on a reasonable interpretation of data.

"Large numbers of people getting together oblivious of controls — no masks, no social distancing, often indoors — a lot of those things are in fact occurring at night," Cullen said, who recently retired from Stanford University. "However, he also questioned whether a limited curfew will be effective.

The curfew applies to 41 of the state's 58 counties that are in the "purple" tier, the most restrictive of four state tiers allowing various stages of economic reopening.

Los Angeles County could see even more stringent lockdowns as early as next week as its caseload and hospitalization figures reach stratospheric levels.

"We're seeing cases increased at a faster rate than we saw over the summer," County public health Director Barbara Ferrer said Friday. "The data looks really bad now and we've had ... three terrible days in terms of case rates and increases in hospitalizations."

People take a self-administered coronavirus test at a COVID-19 testing site in a park in Los Angeles, California, November 20, 2020, a few days ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

The county has already reduced the number of customers allowed for restaurants and other businesses. Officials had said that if the county averages more than 4,000 newly reported cases a day for a five-day period or 1,750 hospitalizations, it would end dining entirely; restaurants would only be able to offer food for takeout and delivery. If cases or hospitalizations reach 4,500 or 2,000, respectively, the county will go on lockdown and impose a stay-at-home order for three weeks.

However, Ferrer said businesses would be given several days' warning before the rules are enacted.

The San Francisco Health Department, meanwhile, says the city is in the middle of a dramatic surge — cases are rising faster than ever. The numbers have quadrupled over the past few days, CBS SF Bay Area reports.

The city, though "is in the red tier and not immediately impacted by the order," said San Francisco Public Health Department Director Dr. Grant Colfax. "However, our trajectory could have us in the purple tier as early as Sunday. At that point we will need to abide by the shelter-in-place order."

UC San Francisco said its COVID admissions on Thursday were double the average.

"Even though we were doing really well, it's only a matter of time before we catch up," said UCSF Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Peter Chin-Hong. "There's been increasing travel the week before Thanksgiving, there were the political celebrations, all these things make it such that our numbers are going up."

California as a whole has seen more than 1 million infections, with a record 13,000 new cases recorded Thursday.

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