COVID: Most Of California Under Strict New Lockdown As Cases Surge

Most parts of the US state of California are under a strict new lockdown, as Covid-19 continues to surge across the country.

The stay-at-home order affects around 85% of the state’s 40 million people. It will be in place for at least three weeks and cover the Christmas holiday.

Many businesses will be closed, and people will be banned from meeting anyone outside their household.

On Sunday, the US had a record number of people in hospital with Covid-19.

The country has seen a sharp rise in cases and Covid-related deaths in recent weeks, a surge that could be partly down to last month’s Thanksgiving holiday, when millions of Americans travelled around the US.

The new restrictions in California – the country’s most populous state – were triggered by intensive care capacity in hospitals shrinking.

The measures apply to the southern part of the state and its central valley, while other areas could follow within days. San Francisco has also gone into lockdown, with the mayor imposing a separate set of orders.

California’s lockdown in March, in which all non-essential businesses were closed, was seen as an early model for the US at the beginning of the pandemic.

What are the new restrictions?

Governor Gavin Newsom has ordered that when capacity at intensive care units in any of five regions of the state goes below 15%, that region will go into lockdown within 24 hours.

The stay-at-home orders triggered in this way will be similar to the far-reaching order issued for the state after the pandemic first hit in March, but with a few significant relaxations:

  • All retail stores are able to stay open, although only at 20% capacity, along with outside spaces such as parks and beaches
  • Gatherings are prohibited, and people are required to stay at home and minimise contact with other households
  • Bars, hair salons and indoor restaurants are closed

The lockdown will last for at least three weeks, and until ICU capacity goes above 15% again. Mr Newsom said the measures would help to “flatten the curve” and reduce the pressure on health services.

“We are at a tipping point in our fight against the virus and we need to take decisive action now to prevent California’s hospital system from being overwhelmed in the coming weeks,” he said last week.

Areas of California under lockdown restrictions

How did it come to this?

The situation in California reflects a surge in infections nationwide. The state, which has the largest number of confirmed cases in the US, reported an additional 30,000 infections on Sunday, a new record.

It has recorded more than 1.3 million cases and around 21,000 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

Intensive care capacity in two of the five regions set up by state officials for the purposes of the stay-at-home order – Southern California and the central San Joaquin Valley – fell below 15% on Friday.

Southern California, which includes Los Angeles and San Diego, the state’s two largest cities, fell to 12.5% on Saturday, and San Joaquin to just 8.6%.

Source:bbc.com

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