California pulls 'emergency break' to curb fast surge of COVID-19

People wearing face masks walk in front of a store in Hollywood Boulevard amid the Coronavirus pandemic, November 16, 2020 in Hollywood, California. (Photo: AFP)

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 16 (Xinhua) -- U.S. California State Governor Gavin Newsom Monday announced a series of "emergency brake" measures to contain the fast surge of COVID-19 in the state, which was "simply without precedent in California's pandemic history."

According to a statement issued by Newsom's office, 41 of the state's total 58 counties, which comprise over 94 percent of the state's population, would be labeled as the purple tier and measures against the pandemic corresponding to the level could be effective Tuesday.

Last week, 13 counties were in the state's most restrictive tier. When counties are in the purple tier, indoor operations for places like museums, houses of worship, gyms and restaurants are not allowed.

The state authority usually adjust its county tiering system on Tuesdays, however, Newsom noted that the government must accelerate the assessment procedure due to the "COVID-19 cases sharply increase across the country and California."

Newsom disclosed that the number of COVID-19 cases had doubled in the past week, with 10,968 new cases on Monday, saying that is the fastest rate of rise the state had seen during the pandemic.

He also said that there had been a 48 percent increase in hospital beds occupied by coronavirus patients in the past two weeks alone while the number of ICU patients with the fatal disease had risen 38 percent over the same period.

"We are sounding the alarm," the statement read, "California is experiencing the fastest increase in cases we have seen yet - faster than what we experienced at the outset of the pandemic or even this summer. The spread of COVID-19, if left unchecked, could quickly overwhelm our health care system and lead to catastrophic outcomes."

The statement indicated that California is also strengthening its face covering guidance to require individuals to wear a mask whenever outside their home, with limited exceptions.

Meanwhile, the governor said the state was implementing plans to boost medical resources in anticipation of a surge in hospitalizations. The first area of action would be hard-hit Imperial County, he said.