A sign requiring customers to wear a mask is posted outside of Modern China Cafe in Walnut Creek on Aug. 16. (Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters)

As California’s COVID-19 daily case count climbed to nearly 10,000 – a height not seen since early August – Gov. Gavin Newsom today announced tough new restrictions as an “emergency brake” to slow a coming surge that could overwhelm hospitals during the holiday season.

Most nonessential businesses, restaurants, bars and places of worship will have to close or severely restrict their operations as state officials pushed 40 of California’s 58 counties back into the most restrictive “purple” tier of the state’s reopening plan starting Tuesday. The dramatic change will affect about 94% of Californians.

“We’re moving from a marathon to a sprint,” Newsom said at a news conference. “These last 10 days have been challenging. We need to be more aggressive, more surgical, more targeted.”

Californians also must wear a mask whenever outside their home, with a few exceptions, in a strengthening of the state’s existing mask mandate, Newsom said.

Source: California Department of Public Health

Newsom also noted that a statewide curfew is being considered and that more restrictions may be coming later this week.

For some counties, test positivity and case rates spiked so dramatically they were pushed back two tiers. Counties entering a more restrictive tier must make changes immediately — no more three-day grace periods for businesses that had reopened.

Hospitalizations up 50% in past two weeks

Although California seemed to have escaped the worst of an alarming national surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations have increased by nearly 50% in the past two weeks, Newsom said. The state’s 14-day test positivity rate — a sign of the amount of disease in the community —h as jumped nearly 44% since Halloween.

As a result, state officials now will restrict counties’ reopenings more quickly than once every two weeks, depending on their health indicators.

Newsom also apologized again for his decision to attend a Nov. 6 outdoor birthday party in Napa for one of his political advisers — exactly the type of gathering he has repeatedly urged Californians to avoid.

“I need to … practice what I preach,” Newsom said, noting that he had been out socially only three times since February. “We’re all human. We all fall short sometimes.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday announced a rollback of reopenings across the state, describing it as “pulling an emergency brake.” Here’s what you should know:

  • Among the state’s 58 counties, 40 were moved into the most restrictive “purple” tier, forcing many businesses to close or restrict operations.
  • About 94% of Californians are now in the most restrictive tier.
  • State officials will continuously review county health indicators and restrict reopening timetables more frequently than once every two weeks, as they did before.
  • The statewide mask mandate now requires Californians to wear a mask every time they leave their home, with a few exceptions.
  • The state is considering whether to impose curfews, and more restrictions may be announced later this week. To learn more about your county’s status, visit https://covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy

* CalMatters COVID-19 coverage, translation and distribution is supported by generous grants from the Blue Shield of California Foundation, the California Wellness Foundation and the California Health Care Foundation.

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