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Well, it finally happened.
On Thursday evening, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered California’s almost 40 million residents to stay home as much as possible and many businesses to close in an extraordinary effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“This is not a permanent state, this is a moment in time,” the governor said in a news conference. “We will look back at these decisions as pivotal.”
The order exempts businesses and agencies that provide essential services, like grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and doctor’s offices, or are considered critical infrastructure.
It has no specific end date.
[Watch Mr. Newsom’s full news conference on the new order here.]
The move added a level of consistency to restrictions that have been enacted piecemeal over the last several days across the state.
In large swaths of California, “nonessential” businesses like movie theaters, gyms and bars had already been ordered to close. Restaurants had been limited to takeout or delivery only. And state officials had already urged residents 65 and older or with chronic health conditions to stay at home.
Mr. Newsom’s announcement came two days after public health officials in seven counties around the Bay Area ordered their roughly 7 million residents to shelter in place, setting in motion a vast, unprecedented experiment.
[What does it mean to “shelter in place”? Here are answers to your questions.]
Other communities followed, adopting almost identical orders or measures with slight variations.
Still, Los Angeles’s mayor, Eric Garcetti, emphasized that “nobody is locked down.”
You can still take a walk — in fact, it’s encouraged. You can still go to the grocery store, or bring food to loved ones. Just stay at least six feet away from anybody you don’t live with and be mindful of others’ vulnerabilities.
And keep washing your hands. (You can read about how to do that here, by the way.)
How the state and local orders will be enforced remains unclear, but officials said that they expected residents to follow them.
“People will self-regulate their behavior,” Mr. Newsom said. “We’ll have social pressure to encourage people to do the right thing.”
A Los Angeles County sheriff’s official said on Twitter that the department did not plan on making arrests to enforce stay-at-home orders.
Mr. Newsom did, however, say that the state would be “more aggressively” policing xenophobic attacks against Asians. “We are better than that,” he said.
State public health officials on Thursday reported the state now has 675 confirmed cases and 16 deaths, up from 598 cases and 13 deaths the day before. The most recent death, the county’s public health department said, was a 30-something person who had underlying conditions and lived near Pasadena.
Health officials in Los Angeles County have been reporting a rapid rises in known cases — as of noon on Thursday, there were 231, up from 190 the day before. But as recognition grows that many infections are undetected, leaders are now focusing on ways to expand the capacity of stretched health care systems and to help residents who were already teetering on a financial edge with the economic fallout from the crisis.
[Here’s where countries are in “flattening the curve.”]
In a letter he sent to President Trump on Thursday, Mr. Newsom asked that the U.S. Navy hospital ship Mercy be sent to Los Angeles through Sept. 1 to help treat patients having heart attacks, strokes and car accidents, as well as the likely surge of patients suffering from Covid-19.
Mr. Newsom said that the state was projecting that 56 percent of California’s population, roughly 25.5 million people, will be infected with the virus over an eight-week period — a stunning disclosure that quickly rippled across the internet.
But on Thursday night, he said he hoped that the extraordinary measures being taken would stop those projections from becoming real.
“The point of the stay-at-home order is to make those numbers moot,” he said.
[Here’s the latest on cases in California and everything else you need to know.]
Here’s what else to read
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Over the week, as more communities shut down all but their most essential services, leaders’ focus turned toward keeping small businesses afloat and their recently laid off former employees in their homes. Legislators across the country are racing to stave off evictions and foreclosures. [The New York Times]
Many immigrants who work in California’s fields are afraid of seeking medical attention and don’t have paid sick leave. That could make the spread of the coronavirus worse. [The New York Times]
Senator Kamala Harris said she’s very concerned about the possibility of wildfires colliding with the coronavirus pandemic. [The San Francisco Chronicle]
College students have been sent home amid widespread school closures. But will their families get tuition refunds? It depends on the school. [The Wall Street Journal]
Minnesota and Vermont are set to classify grocery store employees as emergency workers, which would help them get needed benefits, like child care and other support. [CNN]
If you missed it, here’s what you need to know about going to the supermarket during the pandemic. [The New York Times]
Just a reminder: Be wary of any text messages you get purporting to be from a friend of a friend’s aunt who has inside knowledge of the coronavirus. They’re spreading misinformation, but the goal isn’t clear. [The New York Times]
“We finally figured out what the Z stands for in Gen Z.” We all live on Zoom now. Welcome. [The New York Times]
People have survived some of history’s worst circumstances by banding together. Here’s how. [The New York Times]
And Finally …
Karen Meyerhoff’s mini Australian shepherds, Roxy and Toby, are getting lots of attention these days.
Ms. Meyerhoff’s boyfriend has been at home with the 6-month-old pups, along with their other dogs, since his firefighter training was suspended and Monterey County issued a shelter-in-place order.
But Ms. Meyerhoff is still heading out to work; she’s an anesthesiologist and intensive care doctor in Salinas.
“I’m working in the I.C.U. all this coming weekend,” Ms. Meyerhoff said in an email on Thursday, “so fingers crossed that social distancing is working its magic.”
My fingers are crossed. Stay safe and well, everyone.
Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, graduated from U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter, @jillcowan.
California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.