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California Governor Issues Statewide Lockdown And Orange County Bans Private And Public Gatherings To Limit COVID-19 Spread

California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a statewide stay-at-home order on Thursday, March 19 as an executive precaution against rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in California. The order is in effect until further notice.

“Californians must do what is necessary to meet this moment and help bend the curve,” Newsom said in a press conference Thursday afternoon. “It’s time for all of us to recognize [that] as individuals and as a community we need to do more.”

All individuals statewide are advised to “stay at home or at their place of residence” unless operating in one of the “federal critical infrastructure sectors” detailed in the executive order. The California Department of Public Health issued the order to “establish consistency across the state” in an attempt to “mitigate the impact of COVID-19.”

These “critical infrastructure sectors” as outlined by the Department of Homeland Security  include industries such as healthcare, emergency services, and agriculture. Essential services and businesses that fall under these sectors, such as grocery stores and healthcare services, are to remain open.

On March 17, Orange County banned all private and public gatherings of any number of people until 11:59 p.m. on March 31. In a second statement from health officials, the order was clarified not to be “shelter-in-place,” meaning that the order is not a police-enforced stay-at-home lockdown.

The order, announced by Orange County officials Tuesday afternoon, prohibits all gatherings outside of “a single household or living unit.” The prohibition applies to “all professional, social and community gatherings” that are not engaged in “essential activities.” 

The “essential activities” exception outlined in the regulations allow businesses such as grocery stores, healthcare services and gas stations to remain operational. All bars and establishments that serve alcohol only are to be closed, and restaurants are prohibited from providing on-site dining. Carry-out dining is still permitted.

Businesses are instructed to enact social distancing, known as maintaining a “six-foot separation from all persons except for family members,” and to “make every effort to use telecommuting for its workforce.”

Persons exhibiting “mild to moderate” symptoms of COVID-19 are strongly recommended to self-isolate in their place of residence unless seeking medical care.

The order states that violators of the regulations could be subject to fines up to $1,000, six months imprisonment or both. 

As of March 19, there have been 53 confirmed cases of the virus in the county, with 1,030 confirmed active cases statewide. There have been no COVID-19 deaths within Orange County, but there have been 18 deaths statewide.

Experts told the Los Angeles Times that a growing number of cases are being attributed to “community spread,” a term associated with the spread of a virus outside the original source of exposure. 

Seven other counties throughout California have implemented lockdowns as a means of controlling the spread of COVID-19 cases. San Francisco, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Mateo, Marin, Contra Costa and Alameda counties issued a mandatory three-week lockdown in a “shelter in place” directive on Monday night. 

The City of Irvine has also taken preventative action by declaring a local emergency on Tuesday and by issuing a notice of closure to the public for city facilities such as the City Hall. 

“We want our community to know that the City is taking every step necessary to safeguard the health and well-being of our residents and businesses,” Irvine Mayor Christina Shea said in a press release. “We ask that you follow the State and Federal guidelines … By respecting these preventative measures, we are protecting ourselves and each other [and] doing our part to slow the progression of COVID-19.”

“These will be challenging times and California is mobilizing every part of government to protect and isolate residents most vulnerable to COVID-19,” Newsom said in a press release on March 16.

“Those who are over the age of 65, Californians with underlying health issues, residential care patients and all those who care for these individuals are uniquely at risk. In the coming weeks, our state must rally behind these Californians and work aggressively to ensure their needs are safely met.”

For more information on COVID-19, please visit http://www.ochealthinfo.com/novelcoronavirus or https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

Chelsea Pan is a 2019-2020 City News Co-Editor. She can be reached at citynews@newuniversity.org.

Danielle Dawson is a Staff Writer. She can be reached at dmdawson@uci.edu.