Essential California: The brink of another stay-at-home order

Wearing face masks, people pass by a Christmas-themed store window
Wearing face masks, people pass by a Christmas-themed store window at the Mission Galleria at the Festival of Lights on Sunday in downtown Riverside.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, Dec. 1, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

As the coronavirus continues its relentless surge through California, Gov. Gavin Newsom warned that “the potential for a stay-at-home order” now looms for much of the state.

With COVID-19 hospitalizations already at record levels and an even larger tide of hospitalized patients expected in the weeks to come, officials are sounding alarm bells about the possibility of overwhelming aspects of the state healthcare system. Unless things change, the state could exhaust its existing ICU capacity by mid-December, according to projections Newsom presented.

[Read the story: “Newsom threatens regional stay-at-home order as COVID-19 hospitalizations hit record territory” in the Los Angeles Times]


“If these trends continue, we’re going to have to take much more dramatic — arguably drastic — actions,” Newsom said during Monday’s briefing. According to the governor, those drastic actions could include issuing another stay-at-home order for the 51 counties currently in the most restrictive “purple” tier of the state’s reopening road map. (That designation encompasses the vast majority of the state. Just seven counties — Sierra, Marin, Amador, Alpine, Mono, Mariposa and Inyo — are in less restrictive tiers.) Newsom said the state was “looking in real time at hospitalization numbers and ICU capacity in those regions” and will continue assessing the data as they make determinations in the days to come.

What a potential second stay-at-home order might look like remains to be seen, but it would almost certainly be less draconian than the order issued in March. Newsom said the state was trying to be much more specific and “more surgical” in its plans this time around. It’s worth noting that the targeted stay-at-home mandate that went into effect Monday in Los Angeles County, as ordered by the county health department, bears little resemblance to what we saw in the spring.

Making sense of the numbers

California is currently seeing record case rates and hospitalizations. The current seven-day average of new cases — 14,657 — is significantly higher than the state’s previous peak seven-day average of 9,881 new coronavirus cases in July.

COVID-19-related hospitalizations in the state increased by roughly 89% over the last two weeks. According to the state’s projections, the current number of hospitalized patients could increase by two or three times over the next month if nothing is done.

Hospitalizations usually lag about two to three weeks behind new coronavirus cases, meaning the current hospitalization figures largely don’t include the recent deluge of infections. Officials also think we’ll probably see another large increase in cases over the next week or two, as the events of the Thanksgiving holiday take their toll.


As my colleagues Luke Money and Ron Lin report, California’s intensive care capacity is of particular concern. About 75% of the state’s 7,733 ICU beds are occupied — with 1,812 of them filled by coronavirus patients.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

Los Angeles County is at “the most difficult moment in the pandemic,” with coronavirus cases and COVID-19 hospitalizations surging, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Monday. Los Angeles Times

President Trump’s plan to exclude millions of immigrants in the country illegally from the 2020 census count appeared to fizzle at the Supreme Court on Monday. California officials feared that Trump’s policy, if put into effect in the last weeks of his presidency, could not only diminish the state’s power in Congress, but also could cost cities, counties and school districts hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds over the decade. But none of the justices sounded prepared to endorse Trump’s policy, and two of Trump’s appointees — Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — told an administration lawyer they doubted the legality of excluding millions of longtime residents from the census count. Los Angeles Times

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A former deputy mayor has been charged in the federal City Hall corruption case. Raymond Chan, who oversaw economic development for Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2016 and 2017, has been charged with racketeering conspiracy, bribery and other crimes. Los Angeles Times


Four Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials are refusing to testify in the coroner’s inquest into the deputy shooting death of Andres Guardado, invoking their 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination even though none of them has been accused of a crime. The coroner’s inquest is the first of its kind in nearly 30 years. Los Angeles Times

Homeless families sought shelter from COVID-19 in vacant houses. CHP officers evicted them before Thanksgiving. Los Angeles Times

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Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Santa Clarita) has defeated Democratic Assemblywoman Christy Smith, officially giving the GOP back four of the California seats it lost in 2018. Smith conceded on Monday afternoon, just days after another late-breaking GOP House victory was announced in the Central Valley. After two years out of office, Republican former Rep. David Valadao has regained his old seat, defeating Rep. TJ Cox (D-Fresno) — the freshman representative who ousted Valadao in 2018. Politico


“If not for the virus, Ed and Retta might have lived decades more.” A Central Valley husband and wife, both 61, died within hours of each other from COVID-19 complications at the same hospital. Modesto Bee


“How Huntington Beach became Angrytown, USA.” Huntington Beach has always been conservative, but the governor, mask rules and a new coronavirus curfew have fueled all-out rage. Los Angeles Times

A protester holds a "Disobey the lockdown" sign
Hundreds gathered at Huntington Beach Pier on Nov. 21 to protest a state-mandated overnight stay-at-home order beginning at 10 p.m.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The University of California system is extending the deadline for fall 2021 admission to 11:59 p.m. Friday because it has been experiencing technical difficulties online. Los Angeles Times

“The Nutcracker,” but masked and six feet apart: In Humboldt County, a local dance company reimagined its annual production of the classic holiday ballet, filming a fully masked production to be shown virtually. Eureka Times-Standard

Nineteen food-centric gifts from the Bay Area that support local businesses. San Francisco Chronicle

A poem to start your Tuesday: “Give Me This” by Ada Limón.

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Los Angeles: sunny, 79. San Diego: sunny, 73. San Francisco: sunny, 61. San Jose: sunny, 64. Fresno: sunny, 63. Sacramento: sunny, 63. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Curtis B. Sandberg:

In 1960, my mother, sister, and I took the Santa Fe train from Chicago to Los Angeles to join my stepfather, who had transferred to Pasadena as an Army Signal Corps contract negotiator. Our parakeet, Bunky, and I shared a compartment the whole trip. We arrived on a very warm, smoggy day. Our first home/rental was in the sleepy little town of Sierra Madre. I have never wished to “go back home.” I attended Pasadena H.S. and Cal State L.A. Rather quickly I became a Beach Boys fan and have loved all the California girls/woman I have known. In 1999, I was chosen to be Mr. Tall OC (a.k.a. “King Kurt”) of the Tall Club of OC.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.