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Gov. Gavin Newsom late Thursday told all Californians to essentially stay home for the time being, ordering residents to restrict their movement to basics such as gas, groceries, walks and exercise to stem the spread of the coronavirus and help protect the state’s medical infrastructure.
Newsom’s order ends significant confusion in Orange County about going to work and moving around, as it supersedes an emergency health order limiting movement and issued by Orange County Health Officer Nicole Quick – an order that was quickly altered the day after it was issued, following intense backlash from the business community.
Orange County law enforcement officials have said their approach toward enforcement of movement-restrictions would focus on compliance rather than arrests.
In announcing the new order, Gov. Newsom pointed to infection rates that are speeding up, publicly offering the projection that without limiting movement, half the state’s residents could end up contracting the coronavirus and overwhelm the medical system.
Orange County officials were still processing Newsom’s order late Thursday night, issuing a basic press statement from the County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) around 6:30 p.m..
“We will review the order to evaluate its impact on our community,” read the statement. “The County of Orange’s existing order states that any conflicting or more restrictive orders will supersede it. The recommendation is to follow existing guidelines with the addition of the Governor’s direction to stay at home unless you are participating in essential functions.”
Orange County Supervisor Don Wagner, a Republican who lives in Irvine, earlier in the week openly challenged the directives coming out of Sacramento at a supervisors’ special public meeting, raising the question whether they were motivated more by politics than science.
“They make it up as they go along in Sacramento,” Wagner said.
Reached Thursday night for comment, Wagner said county officials would follow Newsom’s order.
“We do believe this order supersedes ours,” Wagner said. “And people should follow it.”
Wagner noted, “It’s clear that our order was optimistic.”
He confirmed that there was considerable concern in the business community about the restrictions issued by OC Public Health Officer Nicole Quick earlier in the week, saying the economic considerations of shutting down the region’s economy were considerable and should be taken into account.
“It is true the business community thought it went too far, too fast,” Wagner said.
However, he said there was no undue pressure on Quick.
“There was no pressure on her to change her order,” Wagner said.
Staying at home for many families is not a simple economic option, he added.
“Look at the people that can’t work and are living paycheck to paycheck,” Wagner added.
“It’s hard to see us getting through this without a lot of pain and it’s very sad.”
Newsom’s order came formally as an order from the state’s Public Health Officer and Director of the California Department of Public Health, with the specific order that “all individuals living in the State of California to stay home or at their place of residence except as needed to maintain continuity of operations of the federal critical infrastructure sectors.”
Those exceptions revolve around critical infrastructure such as water, communications, chemical, government and health care.
The order concluded by noting that “the California Department of Public Health looks to establish consistency across the state in order to ensure that we mitigate the impact of COVID-19. Our goal is simple, we want to bend the curve and disrupt the spread of the virus.”
In their order, state officials acknowledged that “the supply chain must continue, and Californians must have access to such necessities as food, prescriptions and health care. When people need to leave their homes or places of residence, whether to obtain or perform the functions above, or to otherwise facilitate authorized necessary activities, they should at all times practice social distancing.”
The order also set a standard for health care moving forward, stating the health care system “shall prioritize services to serving those who are the sickest and shall prioritize resources, including personal protective equipment, for the providers providing direct care to them.”
In a separate action, Gov. Newsom also asked President Donald Trump to send the US Navy Mercy Hospital Ship – based in San Diego – to the port of Los Angeles for use throughout the fall arguing that the state has disproportionately aided people returning to the U.S. from foreign countries and needs help to cushion the state health care delivery system as infection rates climb.
Gov. Newsom on Thursday also pressed U.S. House and Senate leaders for $1 billion in aid to help state and local health systems, housing and unemployment benefits.
State lawmakers also have approved their own $1 billion aid package aimed at tackling the coronavirus spread.