Gov. Newsom asks California bars to close, tells older residents to isolate due to coronavirus

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 Gov. Newsom asks California bars to close, tells older residents to isolate due to coronavirus

By Tony Bizjak, Vincent Moleski, Dale Kasler, Benjy Egel, and Ryan Sabalow, The Sacramento Bee

Faced with mounting coronavirus infections, California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday issued sweeping new restrictions in California, calling for home isolation of everyone in the state over age 65 and people with chronic disease, both high-risk populations.

He also asked for closure of bars, wineries, night clubs and brew pubs, and called for restaurants to reduce their occupancy by half. He called that “deep social distancing” and a “pragmatic response to the moment.”

The dramatic announcement, designed to keep people away from each other, stopped short of closing restaurants. Instead, the governor said they can also operate at reduced capacity and with curbside food service and at-home food deliveries.

The governor said his advise for self-isolation is effective immediately. He said will be setting up a system to help get food to needy home-bound seniors.

“We recognize that social isolation for millions of Californians is anxiety-inducing,” he said. But, “we need to meet this moment head on, and lean in and own this moment ... and take actions we think are commensurate with the need to protect the most vulnerable Californians.”

The governor stopped short of issuing an edict, but said he expects businesses and citizens to follow his directions. “I am confident these guidelines will be well received and will be appropriately enforced. If it is not being (done), we will do what we need to do.”

“I have all the expectations in the world the guidelines will be followed on this.”

Governors in Ohio and Illinois issued similar measures on Sunday as the country stepped up what some criticize as slow efforts to curb the pandemic, which started in China in December and reached the U.S. several weeks ago.

The governor, speaking at a Sunday afternoon press conference, also announced the state will prohibit visitors to nursing homes, except in end-of-life circumstances. He said the state also will launch an effort to get homeless indoors in trailers and motels.

Newsom said he is taking the dramatic steps to slow the rate of infection and reduce the number of deaths by giving doctors and hospitals a chance to treat the most serious patients without becoming overwhelmed. The governor said there are 335 cases of coronavirus in California and that six people have died of the virus.

Pressure had been mounting on the governor in recent days as news poured in from Europe, where the pandemic has gone out of control in sections of Italy.

In stark contrast, earlier in the day, Rep. Devin Nunes had encouraged people to go out to restaurants. Sacramento city officials had encouraged the same earlier in the week.

Newsom said he stopped short of ordering restaurants to close because he feels the most vulnerable portion of the population, those 65 and older, will be kept away, and that he wants at this point to maintain a “productive society.” He said he wants restaurants to station dining groups at least six feet away from others.

“We are guided by the science, in a thoughtful way,” he said, “not a framework of hysteria.”

The governor said the state is in negotiations to prepare more hospitals for expected illnesses and will announce this week steps that will be taken to avoid residents being evicted from their residences as a result of business shutdowns.

Asked if he had been tested for the coronavirus, Newsom said he does not intend to be tested until everyone in at-risk groups are first. He said he feels healthy and is not in a vulnerable age group.

Steinberg reacts to governor

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, speaking to The Sacramento Bee Sunday, said he supports the governor’s direction, and said the city will try to help businesses and employees.

“Circumstance are changing very fast. I fully support the governor’s executive order, we must do everything in our power try to change the trajectory of this crisis. Unfortunately, we need to close bars and that means St. Patrick’s Day events need to be canceled. We will do our best to help the small businesses and working people as we protect the public health.”

The mayor and city officials earlier in the week encouraged residents to support local restaurants, and eliminated parking meter payments after 4:30 p.m. to encourage people to come downtown.

“We were trying to find a balance several days ago, but this is moving fast. People should not go to restaurants to dine-in period. We can work with our restaurants to advertise and facilitate curbside delivery.”

“The very real short-term sacrifices will also save many lives,” Steinberg said.

Coronavirus orders in Ohio, New York

Newsom’s statement mirrors orders issued earlier Sunday in Illinois and Ohio. In a tweet, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine wrote: “We will be issuing an order closing all bars and restaurants in #Ohio beginning at 9:00 tonight.”

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker on Sunday announced all restaurants and bars in his state would be closed as of end of the day Monday.

Similarly, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo on Sunday called for volunteer closure of all businesses.

“I am asking private businesses to aggressively consider voluntary closing and allow employees to work from home. If businesses don’t voluntarily cooperate, we will consider mandatory measures,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo had recently ordered restaurants and bars in the state to cut their occupancy by half, but stopped short of closing them down.

Meanwhile, the mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey ordered all restaurants and bars in the city to offer only take-out on Saturday.

European countries, some of which have been hit hard by the virus, already have been taking similar steps. Both France and Spain have completely shut down restaurants, bars and other businesses in an effort to curb exposure to coronavirus. Italy, one of the worst-hit European nations, announced similar measures earlier this week.

As of Sunday morning, there were 2,952 cases reported in the United States. California has the third-most in the country. Statewide in California, there are more than 330 cases as of Sunday morning, a near doubling of the 179 known cases on Thursday of people sick with the virus, according to a tracking database at Johns Hopkins University.

In Sacramento County, the number jumped from 11 last Monday to 32 Sunday morning.

Epidemiologists say the number of cases is likely to be far higher than those numbers, given that the country has a dearth of test kits and that most cases have been undetected.

California coronavirus closings, quarantines

The governor’s statement represents a continuing series of restrictions the state and local officials have been putting on public gatherings. Earlier last week, the governor issued a ban of gatherings of more than 250 people for the near future.

Some 900 California residents also are living in quarantine at Travis Air Force Base.

Many school districts in the state in the last week announced they are closing classes and campuses. Colleges and universities have announced that students will be taking final exams remotely rather than in classrooms.

Restaurateurs had been reporting more sparse crowds prior to the announcement. Dozens of restaurants have closed indefinitely across Seattle since coronavirus began to spread there, and downtown Sacramento nightclubs The Park Ultra Lounge and London have temporarily ceased service as well.

The Sunday brunch crowd was out in full force at Tower Cafe, however, one of the city’s most popular restaurants, where the line for a table spilled onto the sidewalk along Broadway. “Not overly concerned,” said Sacramento resident Jay Sinidad, who was in a group of five waiting to be seated shortly before noon. “We’re just really, really hungry.”

Sinidad said he and his friends aren’t oblivious to the coronavirus threat. He said they take precautions “if we see signs, anyone coughing, anything like that.”

It was a different story a half block away at Sampino’s Kitchen at Joe Marty’s, a sports bar and grill that had just two customers as noon approached.

On a normal Sunday, “we’d get a lot of people coming in for lunch after church,” said bar manager Pati Sedillo. “We’d have people at the bar drinking Bloody Mary’s, mimosas.” She said the near-total shutdown of sports in America hasn’t helped, either. “When the Kings play, we always have people coming in,” she said.

At Lowbrau restaurant in midtown, which was about half full Saturday, manager Zach Dierdorff said the city’s population was dividing itself in half. “Half the population is inside and half the population isn’t bothered by it ... living their lives and not letting it affect them,” he said.

He said he believes business will improve as summer approaches. “Summer is restaurant season,” he said.

By Tony Bizjak, Vincent Moleski, Dale Kasler, Benjy Egel, and Ryan Sabalow, The Sacramento Bee

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