California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday that the state is pulling an “emergency brake” on its reopening blueprint by placing 94 percent of its population under conditions that keep indoor dining closed.
In late August, Newsom announced a color-coded tiered plan that grouped counties based on the severity of their COVID outbreaks. Purple, which is the highest tier, means COVID is widespread and restaurants can only offer outdoor dining and off-premises. Last week, only 13 counties were in that category—that figure ballooned to 41 on Monday.
Eleven counties are in red, meaning COVID is substantial; under this tier, restaurants may allow up to 25 percent capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer. The remaining six counties are in either orange (moderate COVID levels) or yellow (minimal), which allows 50 percent capacity.
In addition to the added restrictions, California is strengthening its mask policy to the point where people must wear masks whenever outside their house, with limited exemptions.
“We are sounding the alarm,” Newsom said in a statement. “California is experiencing the fastest increase in cases we have seen yet—faster than what we experienced at the outset of the pandemic or even this summer. The spread of COVID-19, if left unchecked, could quickly overwhelm our health care system and lead to catastrophic outcomes. That is why we are pulling an emergency brake in the Blueprint for a Safer Economy. Now is the time to do all we can—government at all levels and Californians across the state—to flatten the curve again as we have done before.”
Although the state legally allows dining rooms at the red, orange, and yellow levels, the decision still remains with the county on whether to open them. For example, San Francisco is currently allowed 25 percent capacity, but the city recently decided to shut down indoor dining because of a 250 percent increase in COVID cases since the beginning of October.
According to the Governor’s Office, COVID cases in California are increasing at a quicker pace than they were in July, which led the state to re-close indoor dining at the time. The Golden State reported 9,890 new cases on Sunday, pushing its total to 1,029,235. More than 18,000 have died in the state.
“The data we are seeing is very concerning. We are in the midst of a surge, and time is of the essence. Every day matters and every decision matters,” said California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly in a statement. “Personal decisions are critical, and I am imploring every Californian to stay home if they can, wear a mask whenever they leave their homes, limit mixing, practice physical distancing and wash their hands.”
California joins five other states that have either closed or substantially closed indoor dining: Oregon, Washington, New Mexico, Illinois, and Michigan.