California shopping malls, gyms, indoor church worship and nail salons will shut down again, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Monday in a new round of measures aimed at curtailing the fast-spreading coronavirus outbreak.
The closures will take place in counties that have been on the state’s monitoring list for three or more days. That’s a total of 30 counties, which now includes Placer, Sonoma, Sutter and Yuba counties. In total, the closure will impact 80 percent of Californians, the Democratic governor said.
“This is a new statewide action, effective today,” Newsom said in a Monday press conference. “This continues to be a deadly disease. This continues to be a disease that puts people in our ICUs and our hospitals. and is currently putting a strain on our hospital system and our ICUs.”
In addition, all counties in the state of California are now required to close restaurants for indoor dining, wineries, theaters, zoos, museums, card rooms, bars and family entertainment centers.
The announcement comes as COVID-19 cases continue to spike in California. There have been nearly 321,000 infections, as of Sunday, with more than 7,000 dead.
The positivity rate, the number of positive COVID-19 tests compared to the total number of tests, has risen to about 7.7 percent over the last seven days. The rate is 7.4 percent over the last 14 days.
By comparison, the positivity rate in Texas hit a record high of 16.33 percent on Saturday.
The World Health Organization has recommended that positive rates remain at 5 percent or lower over a two-week period before a government reopens.
Newsom referred to his reversal as “a dimmer switch” that doesn’t shut the economy down completely, but economist Sung Won Sohn said the governor has taken California back nearly to Square One.
“We are backtracking to where we were in March and April,” said Sohn, a business economist at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Sohn said the economy will suffer for the latest shutdowns by the governor.
“Any thought of a V-shaped economic recovery has been nipped in the bud,” he said. “There is no chance of that at all.”
While unemployment rates fell slightly in May — to 16.3 percent statewide and 13.6 percent in greater Sacramento — the new shutdowns will almost certainly trigger rates to start rising again.
“It’s going to affect income. It’s going to result in renewed unemployment,” said economist Jeff Michael of the University of the Pacific. He said the decision is justified by the rise in COVID-19 cases but a “devastating setback” for the economy.
The timing is particularly bad because some of the emergency economic-stimulus benefits are about to run out, he said. For instance, the extra $600 in weekly unemployment benefits enacted by Congress ends in late July.
Sacramento County health officials immediately announced Monday they are calling on most indoor businesses and activities to halt.
Sacramento County Health Chief Dr. Peter Beilenson on Monday said the state and the county likely reopened some businesses more quickly than they should have, but defended those earlier reopenings, saying state and local health officials were also weighing the impact on the economy and on people’s paychecks, as well as mental health.
“There are incredibly competing demands here,” he said. “It’s a huge balancing act. It was reasonable to do some of the openings, but no one has 20-20 foresight.”
Beilenson, Sacramento County’s health chief, said the governor’s approach makes sense. “We have to get the infection numbers under control now,” he said. “We’ll do it (implement the governor’s mandate) right away.”
He cited Sacramento’s fast-growing number of cases, often at more than 200 a day, and a new spike in hospitalizations for COVID-19, and in seriously ill patients needing intensive care treatment.
Beilenson said he believes the business closings will not strike at the entire heart of the infection crisis. He said more people need to wear masks, and in particular, to stop having group gatherings indoors, notably friends and family at homes.
“Part of it has to be about personal responsibility,” he said.
Newsom’s decision brought a swift rebuke from the Professional Beauty Federation of California, an Auburn-based association that represents thousands of salon and barber shop owners. Fred Jones, the federation’s lobbyist, predicted that many salon and barber shop owners will defy the governor.
“Nobody’s going to comply. They can’t afford to,” Jones said. “They’re facing insolvency or whatever consequences would come” from staying open.
He added that many salons that do shut down will simply “go underground” and serve clients in their homes in order to make ends meet.
He said Newsom’s order ignores the financial strains facing salon owners — as well as the strict hygienic protocols they’ve put into place. As far as he knows, not a single customer has gotten sick since the salons were allowed to reopen.
“No traceable contagions … and now we’re being told to shut down,” Jones said.
California’s $1 billion-a-year card room industry, also targeted by Newsom’s new closure order, said the governor is being unfair.
Kyle Kirkland, president of the California Gaming Association, which represents the card rooms, said Newsom shouldn’t be shutting down his industry while allowing Indian casinos to remain open.
Although many independent legal experts say the casinos are protected by the tribes’ sovereign-nation status, Kirkland said Newsom can step in if casinos aren’t complying with health and safety mandates.
“He has the authority when public health and safety is at risk,” said Kirkland, who owns the Club One Casino card room in Fresno. The card room industry is frequently battling with the more powerful casinos over regulatory issues.
Tribal casinos voluntarily closed about the time Newsom issued his initial stay-at-home order in March. Many reopened in May, sooner than Newsom wanted, although he was able to persuade several to delay reopening until early June.
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