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Gov. Newsom Issues Month-Long Curfew, Starting Saturday, For Counties In 'Purple' COVID-19 Alert Tier

SACRAMENTO (CBS13/AP) — Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Thursday that California will be implementing a month-long curfew.

The limited stay-at-home order will mean that non-essential work and gatherings will be prohibited from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. in the 41 counties under the most-restrictive "purple tier" status. Newsom said the order will take effect at 10 p.m. on Saturday and remain in place for a month.

Exactly how the curfew will be enforced is unclear.

The curfew covers 94% of the state's nearly 40 million residents. It's in place in 41 of the state's 58 counties that have the most significant increases in virus cases and face the most severe restrictions under California's system for reopening the economy.

"The virus is spreading at a pace we haven't seen since the start of this pandemic, and the next several days and weeks will be critical to stop the surge. We are sounding the alarm," Newsom said in a statement.

It's the sort of announcement Newsom, a Democrat, would normally make in person. But he was not expected to attend a virtual news conference with the state's top health officers as he faces intense criticism for recently attending a party. He was at a pricey Napa Valley restaurant with lobbyists despite pleading with residents to avoid gatherings with people from multiple households.

"Even our everyday activities become higher risk," California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said at the news conference.

Hospitalizations are up nearly 64% in 14 days, while the positivity rate has jumped from less than 3% to a seven-day rate of 5.6%, he said. The state recorded 11,478 cases Thursday, and about 12% of those cases will be hospitalized in the next two weeks, Ghaly said.

The new overnight restrictions are designed to "help us stem the tide and bring this down very, very soon," Ghaly said. "This is going to help us stop the surge faster and avoid more severe restrictions."

While nonessential businesses must close by 10 p.m., restaurants will be permitted to offer takeout and delivery food and people can do some routine activities like walking the dog, Ghaly said. They will still be able to get medical care, pick up prescriptions and take care of other essential needs.

California was the first state to impose a stay-at-home order in March, and Ghaly said health officials have learned many lessons since then that allow the new order to be more targeted in its approach.

That first lockdown in the spring affected all residents, day and night, but Ghaly said overnight movements are more likely to involve social activities that bring increased risk of infection, particularly if people drink and let down their guard on precautions like wearing masks and staying a safe distance apart.

Earlier on Thursday, Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said his deputies will not be enforcing compliance with county or state-level health orders related to COVID-19.

"The Sacramento County Sheriff's Office will not be determining—including entering any home or business—compliance with, or enforcing compliance of, any health or emergency orders related to curfews, staying at home, Thanksgiving or other social gatherings inside or outside the home, maximum occupancy, or mask mandates," Jones said in a statement released on Thursday.

The curfew comes ahead of Thanksgiving week. Public health leaders have been pleading for people to avoid large families gatherings, nothing that these kinds of activities could provide an easy vector for coronavirus to spread exponentially and further strain hospitals.

Assemblyman James Gallagher, one of the Republican legislators who has been challenging Newsom's coronavirus pandemic-related executive orders in court, immediately criticized the governor's curfew.

"The governor likes to tout that his actions are scientifically driven, but evidence simply does not support such drastic action limiting people's freedom," Gallagher said in a statement.

Newsom hinted earlier this week that he was considering a possible curfew to try and get control of the coronavirus pandemic. The governor also announced that he was pulling the state's "emergency brake," downgrading dozens of California counties - representing the vast majority of residents in the state - to the most-restrictive "purple" tier of reopening.

"We are sounding the alarm," Newsom said in a statement on Monday. "California is experiencing the fastest increase in cases we have seen yet – faster than what we experienced at the outset of the pandemic or even this summer."

Several other countries - and even some US cities - have implemented coronavirus-related curfews. Newsom noted he and public health leaders would be looking at the effectiveness of those curfews before implementing a curfew or something like it.

Still, Sheriff Jones stressed that his office would not be enforcing existing or impending county or state-level health orders.

Instead, Jones said callers who report such health order violations would be directed to call 3-1-1.

"Of course, if there is potential criminal behavior or the potential for impacts to public or personal safety we will continue to respond appropriately," Jones said.

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