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By Shawn Raymundo and Zach Cavanagh
All overnight non-essential work, movement and gatherings must cease for a month beginning this weekend, as state officials on Thursday, Nov. 19, issued a “Limited Stay at Home” order for all counties currently in the purple “widespread” tier, which includes Orange County.
The order, intended to “reduce opportunities for disease transmission,” will apply only to counties in the widespread tier—the highest and most restrictive risk level of the state’s coronavirus monitoring system. It will be effective Saturday, Nov. 21 through Dec. 21, from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
Roughly 94% of California’s population resides in the 41 counties currently in the purple tier that will be affected by the new order.
In a press release Thursday, the state said that such overnight activities “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.”
The new directive comes as California is experiencing another spike in coronavirus cases, which had prompted the state to pull its “emergency brake” this week, placing several counties, including Orange County, back into the purple tier.
“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. We are sounding the alarm,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in the release. “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.”
In the last 14 days, Orange County coronavirus hospitalizations have risen over 70% from 178 on Nov. 4 to 304 on Wednesday, Nov. 18, the most in the county since Aug. 31.
The county’s last reported seven-day average of new cases, reported on a 14-day lag from Nov. 6, has risen 58% from an average of 217 on Nov. 1 to 343 on Nov. 6. There have been 43 coronavirus-related deaths in Orange County in the last 14 days.
Statewide, the number of coronavirus hospitalizations has risen nearly 54% from 3,462 on Nov. 4 to 5,319 on Wednesday with a 4.5% increase alone from Tuesday, Nov. 17 to Wednesday.
The 14-day rolling average of new daily coronavirus cases in California has risen nearly 80% in the last 14 days from 4,560.9 on Nov. 4 to 8,192.2 on Wednesday. The state’s testing positivity rate has also gone up 1.7% in the last 14 days to an even 5%.
According to the official order from Dr. Erica Pan, the state’s acting public health officer, all non-essential gatherings with those from other households and all overnight activities outside of a home will have to cease during the overnight hours.
The order won’t apply to “those activities associated with the operation, maintenance, or usage of critical infrastructure, or required by law.”
“We are asking Californians to change their personal behaviors to stop the surge,” Pan said in the press release. “We must be strong together and make tough decisions to stay socially connected but physically distanced during this critical time. Letting our guard down could put thousands of lives in danger and cripple our health care system.”
In a prepared statement responding to the Limited Stay at Home order, Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes reiterated the department’s position of taking “an education-first approach with regard to the public health orders.”
Barnes added that while OCSD is “assessing the action by the Governor,” deputy sheriffs “will not be responding to requests for face-coverings or social gatherings-only enforcement” because they need to be available for emergency calls.
Shawn Raymundo is the city editor for the San Clemente Times. He graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies. Before joining Picket Fence Media, he worked as the government accountability reporter for the Pacific Daily News in the U.S. territory of Guam. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and follow San Clemente Times @SCTimesNews.
Zach Cavanagh is the sports editor for Picket Fence Media. Zach is a California Journalism Award winner and has covered sports in Orange County since 2013. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ZachCav and follow our sports coverage on Twitter @SouthOCSports. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.