WORLD California locks down key hotspots of COVID-19

WORLD

California locks down key hotspots of COVID-19

AFP

07:11, December 07, 2020

People load foods as vehicles wait in line at a “Let’s Feed LA County” food distribution hosted by the Los Angeles Food Bank on Friday in Hacienda Heights in California. (Photo: AFP)

California’s two most densely inhabited regions and its breadbasket were under stay-at-home orders by Sunday as the COVID-19 pandemic strains hospitals in the most populous US state.

Designed to kick in when intensive care units in any of five regions have little remaining capacity, the order affecting Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley will close bars, hair salons and barbershops, and allows restaurants to remain open only for takeout and delivery.

The shutdowns, which go into effect at 11:59pm on Sunday, are triggered by an order announced Wednesday by Governor Gavin Newsom.

The San Francisco Bay Area was also to go into lockdown on Sunday, under a different set of orders announced on Friday by officials there.

“We know that people are tired of the stringent measures, but they are the only weapons we have to combat the virus,” said Dr Maggie Park, public health officer in San Joaquin County, in the state’s hard-hit farming region.

More than 25,000 new cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed in California on Friday, officials said, a record since the pandemic began. The state also recorded 209 deaths, bringing the total to 19,791.

California’s statewide orders, which kick in whenever a region has less than 15 percent capacity available in its intensive care units, allow critical infrastructure to stay open, including schools that have obtained waivers allowing them to hold in-person classes. Dental offices will also remain open.

The orders have been criticized by some Republican politicians who say closing small businesses and ordering people to stay mostly at home will do more harm than good.

Critics also hit decisions by several Democratic politicians, including Newsom and San Francisco Mayor London Breed, to dine in an expensive Napa Valley restaurant that was legally open but at a time when the virus was surging and officials were urging people not to socialize over the Thanksgiving holiday.

“Government lockdowns do not reduce cases or stop spikes,” Republican State Assemblyman James Gallagher, who represents a district north of Sacramento not yet affected by the shutdown, said after Newsom announced the regional plans.

On Saturday, the US notched a record of nearly 230,000 new infections within 24 hours.

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