Dine-in restaurants, bars will again close in 19 California counties, Newsom orders
As the state continues to see rising cases and hospitalizations from COVID-19, Gov. Gavin Newsom previewed a "dimmer switch" to toggle back public health restrictions intended to reduce the spread of COVID-19. (Courtesy of the California governor's office)

As cases and hospitalizations from COVID-19 have increased in recent days, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday is again closing businesses in California counties that have seen the worst spikes.

For the next three weeks, Newsom ordered indoor operations for restaurants, wineries, movie theaters, family entertainment, zoos, museums and card rooms to close in 19 counties that have been on the state’s watchlist for at least three days. This includes Santa Clara County, which has a more restrictive shelter-in-place order that has yet to allow these businesses to operate indoors.

Bars in those 19 counties must close altogether, which follows Newsom’s order Sunday for seven counties to immediately close their bars and recommending eight other counties close drinking establishments.

The closures affect more than 70 percent of California’s population. Newsom’s announcement came as the state reported 5,898 new cases, to a total of 232,657 confirmed cases, and 110 new deaths, among the state’s highest daily counts. The state’s total death count was 6,090 as of Wednesday.

“The spread of this virus continues at a rate that is particularly concerning,” Newsom said in his briefing, adding that parts of the state are seeing increases in cases and the positivity rate, an important statistical indicator to determine positive results of all tests conducted.

As a result, “we are doing everything we can to focus in on certain sectors of our economy where that spread is more likely to occur — where that spread can potentially be more concentrated — and try to mitigate that spread to the extent we can,” he said.

California’s 14-day positivity rate has steadily risen to 6 percent, up from 4.5 percent in mid-June. In the last two weeks, patients hospitalized with COVID-19 have increased 51 percent statewide, while intensive care cases jumped 47 percent. Still, Newsom emphasized the state currently has adequate hospital capacity.

Additionally, the state will close parking at state beaches in Southern California and Bay Area for the upcoming Fourth of July weekend. The state will also close its beaches in counties that close local beaches.

Meanwhile, Newsom urged counties on the watchlist to shutter all fireworks shows. Californians, he added, should reconsider family gatherings if they don’t live with those attendees. On June 18, the governor also enacted a statewide face covering requirement in public spaces, which followed several local jurisdictions enacting their own mask ordinances.

To enforce the measures, Newsom announced that multi-agency strike teams, including the state Department of Alcohol Beverage Control and California Highway Patrol, will target non-compliant workplaces in coordination with local public health departments and businesses.

“This is an effort of safety and security, of one of public health, to ensure that we are continuing to flatten the curve,” said Mark Ghilarducci, director of the state Office of Emergency Services. The strike teams, he added, will first deploy to the 19 counties to focus on non-compliance and issue citations if needed. “This will begin today and we’ll be moving forward in the coming weeks throughout the state.”

But if counties do not comply, Newsom threatened to withhold $2.5 billion in state funding to local governments, which the Legislature established as part of the recent $202 billion budget.

Santa Clara County made it onto the state watchlist for a spike in hospitalizations. The county currently has 80 people hospitalized for COVID-19, up from just 38 patients on June 21. On Wednesday, the county reported 210 new cases, the highest ever daily count, with two new deaths.

Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody has indicated she would issue a new shelter-in-place order this week to end sector-specific strategies and move to business-wide guidelines, with additional requirements for higher risk activities. She reiterated the action Monday in a joint meeting with the Board of Supervisors and San Jose City Council, though several Bay Area counties have recently halted moves to ease their health orders.

On Tuesday, the county also unveiled school reopening guidance, which includes physically distanced desks, face coverings for everyone and canceling activities such as choir. But the question of whether schools can actually resume in-person classes remains unclear.

“It will depend on the containment of COVID-19 in the months to come,” Cody told reporters. “As I mentioned before, we are monitoring a number of factors.”

Given Newsom’s rollbacks Wednesday, it’s unclear how the anticipated county order might look, especially amid case and hospitalization increases.

“We are evaluating the governor’s statements with regards to how they apply to the County of Santa Clara,” a Public Health Department statement said.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Contact Eduardo Cuevas at [email protected] or follow @eduardomcuevas on Twitter.

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