State issues limited curfew, ban on nighttime gatherings for the next month

State officials Thursday afternoon ordered all nonessential workers to stay home as much as possible between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. if they live in areas where the coronavirus is widespread—which includes Los Angeles County and Long Beach.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a tweet that the curfew will start Saturday and last for one month.

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

Officials 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 basic safety precautions like wearing masks and staying a safe distance apart.

The limited stay-at-home order follows the state’s more sweeping lockdown in the spring that affected all residents, day and night.

“This is the same as the March Stay at Home Order, but applied only between 10 PM and 5 AM and only in purple tier counties that are seeing the highest rates of positive cases and hospitalizations,” the state said in a news release.

The order, which applies to all areas of Southern California and most of the rest of the state, comes as coronavirus infections are exploding across the region.

Today, LA County announced a record-breaking 5,000 new infections. Across the state, COVID-19 case rates spiked by about  50% during the first week of November.

“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.”

Overall, the state reported 11,478 new infections today. This isn’t the state’s highest number ever, but it is the highest so far for this surge, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said.

More than the overall number of cases, what’s alarmed health officials is the rate of how quickly the number of new cases is increasing.

For instance, in LA County the rate of increase was 147% when cases ballooned from 1,513 new infections on Nov. 1 to 3,742 on Nov. 18. In Long Beach, the rate has also been spiking, going from 25 on Nov. 5, to 45 on Nov. 12 and 192 on Nov. 19.

“COVID can go from 0 to 60 very quickly and it has,” Ghaly said. He warned that the current spike still hasn’t peaked.

Ghaly said there’s no single factor driving the surge. The culprits include colder weather, more people mixing, an increase in travel, and gatherings for things like protests, championship celebrations or holidays.

Even people who haven’t participated in any of those behaviors are now more in harm’s way because of how widespread the virus has become, according to Ghaly.

“It really means that activities you normally do are higher risk today than they were a month ago,” he said.

That risk, Ghaly said, prompted officials to mandate the overnight curfew to discourage some of the more risky behaviors like dining out or gathering with people.

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia praised the new restrictions, saying the action by Newsom, “will save lives and provide relief to our hospitals and healthcare system. The rest of the country should follow his lead and do the same.”

Newsom’s announcement came just hours after LA County officials warned a full stay-at-home order could return as soon as the weekend if the case rate continues to grow at the pace it is right now.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Jeremiah Dobruck is the breaking news editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his journalism career in 2007 as an intern at Palos Verdes Peninsula News and has worked for The Forum Newsgroup in New York City, the Daily Pilot and the Press-Telegram. He lives in Torrance with his wife, Lindsey, and their two young children.
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