The coronavirus
The coronavirus is pictured in this electron microscope image. Courtesy NIH

With COVID-19 infections surging across the state, Gov. Gavin Newsom Thursday issued what amounts to an overnight curfew, prohibiting all “non-essential” activities and gatherings between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

The “limited Stay At Home Order” applies to all counties in the restrictive “purple” tier of the state’s coronavirus monitoring system — which includes Los Angeles and Orange counties. The order will take effect at 10 p.m. Saturday and remain in force until 5 a.m. Dec. 21.

“The virus is spreading at a pace we haven’t seen since the start of this pandemic and the next several days and weeks will be critical to stop the surge,” Newsom said in a statement. “We are sounding the alarm. It is crucial that we act to decrease transmission and slow hospitalizations before the death count surges. We’ve done it before and we must do it again.”

According to the governor’s office, the order is aimed at reducing opportunities for spread of the virus, nothing that activities conducted overnight “are often non-essential and more likely related to social activities and gatherings that have a higher likelihood of leading to reduced inhibition and reduced likelihood for adherence to safety measures like wearing a face covering and maintaining physical distance.”

On Monday, Newsom said he was pulling an “emergency brake” on economic activity in the state in response to rising case numbers. As part of that announcement, 28 counties were moved back to the restrictive “purple” tier of the monitoring system, leaving a total of 41 of the state’s 58 counties in that tier.

The “purple” tier severely restricts capacity at retail establishments, closes fitness centers and limits restaurants to limited outdoor-only service.

Newsom said daily cases numbers in the state “have doubled just in the last 10 days. This is simply the fastest increase California has seen since the beginning of this pandemic.”

Newsom noted that the biggest increase the state had seen previously was in mid-June, when California had a 39.2% increase in new cases in one week. At the start of November, the state saw a 51.3% increase in a one-week period, he said.

He called it an “increase simply without precedent in California’s pandemic history.”

Los Angeles County health officials on Thursday announced 5,031 new coronavirus cases, the highest single-day total reported since the pandemic began. County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said the county’s surging numbers have now exceeded the spike seen in mid-summer, jumping 68% since the end of October, compared to a 43% increase that occurred between mid-June and early July.

“At this point, no one should be still underestimating the spread of this virus, nor should anyone be questioning the actions we still need to slow the spread and lessen its impact on our collective health and our local economy,” Davis said.

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