California gloom: Virus cases spiral, new closures imminent

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People walk near the Versace boutique on Rodeo Drive, decorated for the holidays amid the coronavirus pandemic, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020, in Beverly Hills, Calif. The three-week "safer at home" order began on Monday. Indoor retail businesses, which make much of their profits during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday seasons, are allowed to remain open but with just 20% of capacity, including nail salons and other personal care services. (AP Photo/Pamela Hassell)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – With coronavirus cases surging at a record pace, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a new stay-at-home order Thursday and said if people don't comply the state's hospitals will be overwhelmed with infected patients.

Newsom's latest effort to keep people from gathering with others from outside their households divides the state into five regions and links business closures and travel restrictions to hospital ICU capacity. When a region has fewer than 15% of its ICU beds available, new restrictions are imposed.

Newsom said four regions — all but the San Francisco Bay area — could meet that threshold “within a day or two." A litany of changes would take effect, including closing hair salons, barber shops and movie theaters. Restaurants may only serve takeout and delivery, and playgrounds will be off-limits.

Retailers and shopping centers would have to limit stores to 20% capacity during the busy holiday shopping season.

The order takes effect Saturday and, once triggered, regions would have 24 hours to implement the rules, which stay in effect at least three weeks. The rules don't apply to public schools with in-person learning.

“The bottom line is if we don’t act now our hospital system will be overwhelmed,” Newsom said during an online news conference from his home, where he has quarantined with his family for the past two weeks after his children were exposed to the virus. “This is the most challenging moment since the beginning of this pandemic.”

The announcement was a gut punch for retailers and restaurants counting on the shopping season to boost a dismal year.

“The loss of revenue many small businesses will experience as a result of this latest shutdown could be catastrophic,” said Allan Zaremberg, California Chamber of Commerce president and CEO.