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State officials order ‘limited’ statewide curfew for purple-tier counties to slow COVID spread

Citing the rise in COVID-19 cases across California, Gov. Newsom and public health officials announced a limited Stay-at-Home Order.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a "limited" stay-at-home order that will impact California's purple-tier counties into December as the state continues its fight with a surging coronavirus.

“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. “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.”

The order bans non-essential businesses and personal gatherings for purple tier counties between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. The order goes into effect on Nov. 21 at 10 p.m. and is expected to end at 5 a.m. on Dec. 21.

In a Thursday press conference, Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of Health and Human Services in California, said the order would still allow you to go to the drug store or grocery store after 10 p.m. He also listed other examples like walking your dog and getting takeout from a restaurant that would still be allowed. 

He said the curfew is meant to avoid further restrictions. In regard to the 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. timeframe, Ghaly said it can be a period where some people might be gathering and possibly letting their guard down for certain activities.

Officials said coronavirus case rates rose by about 50% in California during the first week of November. Newsom and health officials had previously announced some measures to protect the state and its health care system from a potential surge of cases.

“We are asking Californians to change their personal behaviors to stop the surge. We must be strong together and make tough decisions to stay socially connected but physically distanced during this critical time. Letting our guard down could put thousands of lives in danger and cripple our health care system,” said Dr. Erica Pan, the state’s acting Public Health Officer. 

“It is especially important that we band together to protect those most vulnerable around us as well as essential workers who are continuing their critical work amidst this next wave of widespread community transmission across the state. Together we prevented a public health crisis in the spring and together we can do it again.”

Before the governor’s announcement was even made, Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones issued a statement on the position of the sheriff’s office toward any orders from the state or county.

“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 the sheriff's office won’t be dispatching officers for these reasons and that callers would have to dial 311 to reach the county health department. He added that the sheriff’s office will respond as needed if there’s a crime or impacts on public or personal safety.

On the topic of enforcement, Ghaly said California has "depended on a partnership with all of you.” He added that local jurisdictions will be able to use the order as a tool for enforcement if they believe there is a need to do so.

"We also have enforcement tools for local jurisdictions and even at the state level, we're able to enforce it," he said. "We hope that if that tool is necessary that the counties use it as appropriate."

If the order doesn't work as they expect, Ghaly said other measures might be taken.

“In looking at that, if we do see trends that are more concerning, that we don’t see the impacts and effects of the actions today, there are other tools in the toolbox," he said. "We’ve used them before. We’ve developed others. They are additive and we will use them.”

However, he said the starting point for public health is always with partnership, communication, and education.

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