Southern California Stay-at-Home Order Expected to Be Extended

Travel Increases Ahead Of Christmas Holiday

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A regional stay-at-home order in effect across Southern California due to surging COVID-19 hospitalizations will be formally extended today, continuing a ban on all gatherings of people from different households, in-person dining and strict capacity limits at many businesses.

A localized order in Los Angeles County imposing similar restrictions has already been extended.

The state's regional order, which covers an 11-county Southern California area, took effect at 11:59 p.m. Dec. 6 and was set to expire Monday. But with the region's intensive-care unit capacity at hospitals still effectively listed at 0%, Gov. Gavin Newsom said the order is all but certain to be extended.

“It is clear and understandable that it's likely those stay-at-home orders will be extended,'' Newsom said.

A formal announcement had been expected Monday, but Newsom said the state was still compiling hospital and case data, and completing hospital-demand projections for the next four weeks.

“When we conceived of this framework, we are looking at projections four weeks out,'' he said. `We are looking at current case rates, positivity rates, looking at the community surveillance that we're doing and anticipating based upon our modeling where that growth will be over a four-week period.''

Newsom noted, however, that based upon large number of people who appeared to have ignored warnings against travel over the Christmas holiday -- and those who will likely do so over the upcoming New Year's holiday, the state is bracing for a “surge on top of a surge, arguably on top of, again, another surge.''

He said the official announcement extending the order will be made Tuesday by Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state's Health and Human Services secretary.

Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Monday the county isn't waiting for the state to act. The county extended its local stay-at-home order on Sunday night, largely mirroring the restrictions included in the state's mandate. Ferrer said the county acted in anticipation of a state extension, and the local order will remain in place indefinitely.

Newsom noted that COVID-19 hospital admissions have begun to plateau across much of the state -- with the exception of Southern California, with Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties continuing to be the hardest hit.

Los Angeles County has rapidly become the epicenter of the pandemic in the state, with the state reporting more than 7,100 COVID-19 patients in L.A. County hospitals, including more than 1,400 in intensive-care unit beds. Newsom said 96% of Los Angeles County hospitals diverted ambulances to other facilities at some point over the weekend due to overcrowding in emergency rooms -- up from a normal average of 33% of hospitals going on diversion.

According to Newsom, county hospitals on average spent 16 hours on diversion over the weekend, unable to find space for emergency patients.

The Southern California region covers Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, Imperial, Inyo, Mono, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. Most broadly, the order bars gatherings of people from different households.

Under the order, the following businesses/recreational facilities were forced to close:

-- indoor recreational facilities;

-- hair salons and barbershops;

-- personal care services;

-- museums, zoos, and aquariums;

-- movie theaters;

-- wineries;

-- bars, breweries and distilleries;

-- family entertainment centers;

-- cardrooms and satellite wagering;

-- limited services;

-- live audience sports; and

-- amusement parks.

Schools with waivers can remain open, along with “critical infrastructure'' and retail stores, which will be limited to 20% of capacity. Restaurants are restricted to takeout and delivery service only. Hotels are allowed to open “for critical infrastructure support only,'' while churches would be restricted to outdoor only services. Entertainment production -- including professional sports -- would be allowed to continue without live audiences.

Four of the five regions carved out by the state are under stay-at-home orders, covering 98% of the state's population. Only far northern California is not under a stay-at-home order.

The order was triggered in each area when the region's ICU bed availability dropped below 15%. In some counties, the official ICU bed availability is 0%. That percentage does not mean that there aren't any ICU beds available, since the state adjusts the number based on the ratio of COVID-19 patients being housed in the units.

Newsom again had harsh words for counties and county officials who continue to “thumb your nose'' at health orders. He singled out Riverside County, where Sheriff Chad Bianco has publicly criticized Newsom and said his agency would not be “blackmailed'' into becoming an enforcement arm of state health officials.

Newsom has said repeatedly that counties that don't adhere to health restrictions would lose state funding.

“We're in the midst of a pandemic,'' Newsom said. “I don't know what more evidence you need, particularly, as highlighted, Riverside County is experiencing what they're experiencing in ICUs and hospitals and lives lost. I mean, what more evidence do you need that trying to enforce good behavior will actually save lives? It's a noble and right thing to do.

“To dismiss as many have in the past and some of the same folks ... some still holding onto this as a hoax or face coverings don't matter. ... They're not helping. They're not advancing that cause, and so we will be assertive as we have been, we will be aggressive, as we have been.''

Bianco, in a video message posted online earlier this month, called state health mandates “flat-out ridiculous,'' while calling Newsom's stances hypocritical in light of his criticism of the federal government for withholding funds from states, and following Newsom's well-publicized attendance at a dinner party in spite of his own regulations against such gatherings.

Bianco told residents in his message to wear a mask and practice social distancing, but said, “While the governor's office and the state has threatened action against violators, the Riverside County Sheriff's Department will not be blackmailed, bullied or used as muscle against Riverside County residents in the enforcement of the governor's orders.''

Photo: Getty Images

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