What does California’s ‘stay at home’ order mean for Silicon Valley?
California Gov. Gavin Newsom is pictured in this file photo. Photo by Katie Lauer.

Want to do your part in fighting coronavirus? Then stay home.

That was the message California Gov. Gavin Newsom delivered Thursday night to all 40 million Californians as he announced an official “stay at home” order. So far, 675 people have tested positive for the virus statewide and 16 people have died from coronavirus, known as COVID-19.

In the Bay Area, the order changes nothing for now. The region has been on a “shelter in place” order since Tuesday. Grocery stores, restaurants, pharmacies and other essential services will remain open. Residents can still go outside for exercise or to walk their dogs, as long as they stay at least six feet from anyone they don’t live with.

The biggest difference is that local health officials’ order was set to last for three weeks, while Newsom’s announcement didn’t come with an end date.

“We are not victims of circumstance, we can make decisions to meet moments and this is a moment we need to make tough decisions,” Newsom said in a live stream Thursday. “This is a moment where we need some straight talk and we need to tell people the truth. We need to bend the curve in the state of California.”

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said he “strongly supports” the stay at home order in a statement Thursday.

“As the chair of the Big City Mayors, my colleagues and I have actively advocated for the State of California to take aggressive measures to combat the spread of COVID-19,” he said. “ We appreciate that the Governor must take decisive action to mitigate the harm that will be wrought by this pandemic.”

Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) tweeted his support Thursday, urging residents to stay calm.

“It’s important that we remain calm, listen to guidance from the experts, and ignore rumors,” he said. “While there are important #COVID19 guidelines in place that everyone should follow, there are still many things we can do to keep our routines and our sanity.”

Santa Clara County Public Health officials urged residents to comply with the order, saying limiting personal contact is a “proven strategy” to protect vulnerable residents and slow the spread of the virus.

“As the novel coronavirus continues to spread in our community and statewide, it is critical that all residents follow the direction of public health leaders to stay home except when necessary,” a statement from the department read. “We urge all residents to comply with the restrictions in both the county and state orders.”

As for enforcement, that remains hazy. Newsom stressed that he’s relying on and trusting residents to comply. Residents can keep up to date with the latest information on the virus in California at the state’s newly-launched website, www.covid19.ca.gov.

“We will have social pressure and that will encourage people to do the right thing,” he said. “Just a nod and look that will say, ‘Hey, maybe you should reconsider being out there on the beach.’”

The announcement comes after the governor sent a letter to President Donald Trump raising concerns that an estimated 56 percent of Californians would be infected by the virus in the next eight weeks without any mitigation measures.

That would equate to about 25.5 million infected with COVID-19 as the state continues to estimate that 20 percent of those infected will need hospitalization, a level of need that will require more medical resources, including equipment and beds, than California has currently.

But those numbers don’t have to come to fruition, Newsom said.

“If we change our behavior,  that inventory will come down,” he said. “If we meet this moment, we can truly bend the curve to reduce … the need to have to go out and cobble these assets together.”

Even as the state works to slow the spread of COVID-19, it is still working to “cobble” assets together.

Newsom announced Thursday that the state had acquired the embattled Seton Hospital in Daly City, which was previously slated to close.

California has also set aside more than $1 billion to fight the spread of the virus and has purchased 1,309 trailers for homeless residents. State officials are also looking to acquire hotel and motel rooms to temporarily house the homeless population.

Newsom has asked Trump and the Department of Defense to deploy the Navy’s Mercy hospital ship off the coast of California and to send two mobile hospitals to the state, which could add thousands of beds to the state’s inventory.

“This is not a permanent state, this is a moment in time,” Newsom said. “If we are to be criticized at this moment, let us be criticized for taking this moment seriously.”

Follow along with San José Spotlight’s real-time coronavirus coverage on our LIVE BLOG here.

Contact Janice Bitters at janice@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @JaniceBitters on Twitter.

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