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Update COVID Curfew: California To Impose Stay-At-Home Order For Counties In Purple Tier

SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) -- California is imposing a limited stay-at-home order for all counties in the state's Purple Tier of coronavirus infection level as new daily COVID-19 cases are climbing to the highest levels since the beginning of the pandemic.

Governor Gavin Newsom announced the order Thursday afternoon, saying it would apply to the 41 counties currently in the Purple Tier and last for a month. The counties comprise about 90 percent of the state's population.

Non-essential work and gatherings would be banned between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. It would go into effect on November 21.

"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," said Newsom in a press release. "It is crucial that we act to decrease transmission and slow hospitalizations before the death count surges. We've done it before and we must do it again."

California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said Thursday hospitalizations in the state have increased 63 percent over the last 14 days, while ICU hospitalizations have rose 40.5 percent.

"In California as we have enjoyed lower rates of transmission, lower numbers of cases, we too are seeing this surge growing faster and faster," Ghaly said. "We must address it immediately."

On Wednesday, California saw 11,478 new COVID-19 cases and a rolling daily average of 8,192 cases, the most since late July/early August. The state has seen 1,059,267 total cases and 18,466 total deaths.

Meanwhile, the state's testing positivity rate has climbed to 5%, up from 3.3% on November 5th.

The order, issued by Acting State Public Health Officer Dr. Erica S. Pan, targets people who may be gathering with others outside their household late at night.

"Nothing in this order prevents any number of persons from the same household from leaving their residence, lodging, or temporary accommodation, as long as they do not engage in any interaction with (or otherwise gather with) any number of persons from any other household, except as specifically permitted herein," the order states.

Ghaly said there was no single reason for the stricter measures now being undertaken by the state, noting that "COVID goes from zero to 60 miles an hour very quickly."

"There is no single culprit, it's a combination of factors -- colder weather, more mixing, more openings, more travel," said Ghaly. "What does it mean when levels are this high across the state, it means that activities that you normally do are higher risks today than they were a month ago. We've seen reports of people saying, 'Well, I haven't changed my behavior, I was doing the same thing a month ago.' Well, today because of the background transmission rate, the level of COVID in our communities is higher. Even our everyday activities become higher risk."

He also said that residents in counties at the purple tier would not be prohibited from visiting the grocery story, walking their dog or getting take-out food from a restaurant during the set curfew hours.

On a more positive note, Ghaly said there would no additions to the purple tier on Thursday. Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo Counties remain in the Red Tier.

"Today, we are not announcing additional counties in the purple tier, in fact, over the past 48 hours that we looked at the data no county across has moved to a more restrictive tier."

Contra Costa County health officials asked local residents to honor the new order.

"Contra Costa encourages everyone who lives or works in the county to follow the order, which will be enforced the same way as all state and local health orders in our county," officials said.

While his county is not covered by the order, San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa was critical of the state's action.

"As far as I know the disease is just as deadly between 10 am to 5 pm as it is from 10 pm to 5 a.m.," Canepa said in a news release. "So I cannot support this tactic since there is no scientific evidence that shows a curfew works. Stick to the science and wear your damn masks. The rules should be the same night or day."

On Thursday, San Jose Police Chief Eddie Garcia balked at the prospect of enforcing such an order.

"The expectation for law enforcement to enforce a curfew is unreasonable," said Garcia. "I'm somewhat confused as felons are being released from custody, exactly how we would enforce such an order."

A San Jose Police Department spokesperson later released a statement, saying that, as the department did for the earlier shelter-in-place order, authorities would focus on education versus issuing citations.

The spokesperson also said police in San Jose would not be utilizing this curfew as probable cause to detain persons during the curfew hours.

The California Highway Patrol released a similar statement, saying "The mission of the CHP is unchanged. CHP officers will continue to patrol throughout California and use their sound professional judgment to conduct enforcement stops for violations of the law based upon probable cause."

Ahead of the announcement, Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones issued a statement to clarify his office's position on "existing health orders, as well as any potential impending orders at the County or State level."

"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," said Jones. "Further, we will not dispatch officers for these purposes—callers will be advised to call 3-1-1 and be routed to County Health. Of course, if there is potential criminal behavior or the potential for impacts to public or personal safety we will continue to respond appropriately."


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