Stay home indefinitely, get out only for essential jobs, errands and exercise, Californian governor’s order says.
California has ordered its 40 million residents to stay home indefinitely and venture outside only for essential jobs, errands and some exercise, becoming the first US state to adopt such a sweeping measure to curb the rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak.
“I can assure you home isolation is not my preferred choice, I know it’s not yours, but it’s a necessary one,” Governor Gavin Newsom said at an evening news conference streamed on social media on Thursday.
The order culminated a series of aggressive moves announced this week amid efforts to keep the virus in check by forcing people to stay away from each other as often as possible. Newsom had previously announced that all public events in California were cancelled until at least the end of March and ordered the closure of restaurants following previous mandates to close bars, breweries, wineries and similar establishments.
The statewide order does not have a specific timeframe. According to official statistics, COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has so far infected 675 people in California and killed 16, as of March 18.
Newsom told residents that they “can still take your kids outside, practising common sense and social distancing. You can still walk your dog.” Restaurant meals can still be delivered to homes.
The announcement came after the release of a letter to President Donald Trump where Newsom warned the virus was spreading quickly and eventually could infect more than half of the state’s population.
A spokesman later clarified that the figure did not take into account the aggressive mitigation efforts that have been made.
The governor said he does not expect police will be needed to enforce his stay-at-home order, saying “social pressure” already has led to social distancing throughout the state.
“I don’t believe the people of California need to be told through law enforcement that it’s appropriate just to home isolate,” he said.
The Democrat who is barely a year into his first term also called up 500 National Guard troops to help distribute food. The move comes after panic buying led to massive lines at some supermarkets.
Kevin McCarthy, a Republican congressman from California, wrote on Twitter: “I hope Governor Newsom consulted with a lot of experts before he decided to shut down 12 percent of the nation’s population.”
Newsom also outlined a series of steps aimed at providing more space for hospital patients.
He said the state had taken over a 357-bed bankrupt hospital in the San Francisco Bay Area, soon will announce the purchase of a similarly sized hospital in Southern California, and may use dormitories at the state’s public colleges and universities.
He also asked Trump to dock the Navy’s 1,000-patient Mercy hospital ship in the Port of Los Angeles.
The coronavirus is spread through sneezes and coughs. There are at least 1,030 confirmed cases in California and 18 people have died, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Newsom’s statewide order came after counties and communities covering about half the state’s population already had issued similar edicts.
He said the restriction was “open-ended” because it could raise false hopes if he included an end date.
However, he did offer a glimmer by saying he did not expect it would last “many, many months”.
Just before Newsom’s statewide declaration, Los Angeles announced what officials there called a “Safer at Home” order that carried the same restrictions.
“We’re about to enter into a new way of living here in Los Angeles,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said. “What we do and how we do it and if we get this right will determine how long this crisis lasts.”
In the letter to Trump seeking the hospital ship, Newsom said California’s infection rates were doubling every four days in some areas and that 56 percent of the state’s population – amounting to more than 22 million people – could contract the virus in the next eight weeks.
He later said the “overwhelming majority won’t have symptoms” and would be fine but up to 20 percent could be hospitalised.
“If we meet this moment, we can truly bend the curve” of escalating cases, Newsom said.