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Gov. Gavin Newsom escalates coronavirus effort, asks all California restaurants and theaters to close

California Faces First Case Of “Community Acquired” Coronavirus
California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a news conference in Sacramento on Feb. 26.
(Getty Images)

Citing the need to “align” the efforts of local and state officials to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Monday that all California restaurants should close their doors to dine-in customers and that gyms, health clubs and movie theaters should also shutter their operations.

The announcement, made during a brief presentation on Facebook Live, represented an expansion of the state’s public health efforts and a reversal from just 24 hours earlier as to whether restaurants should curtail their operations.

Newsom said that he was “asking our restaurants to close down, for the moment, provide takeout if they wish, and operate in that frame. But that will focus an alignment throughout the state of California at this point, we believe it’s necessary.”

The decision follows similar efforts in Los Angeles and other large cities but presents a sweeping new challenge for similar businesses in mid-size and small cities as well as the state’s rural locations. On Sunday, the governor had said that restaurants should remain open as long as they removed enough seating to achieve six feet or more of separation for their dining patrons — “deep social distancing,” as he called it at the time.

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Appearing on the social media site from the state’s Office of Emergency Services, the governor also said changing conditions had caused him to rethink his request last week to limit mass gatherings to no more than 250 people.

Several communities have since adopted stricter rules, and Newsom said Monday it was time for all Californians to do so too. He said he was particularly affected by the seven Bay Area counties that have adopted a “shelter in place” policy, effectively asking everyone to remain as isolated as possible in hopes of slowing the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

“If we’re asking people to shelter in place, to isolate at home,” Newsom said, " the point of gatherings is lost on all of us from a public safety and health perspective. So directing that no gatherings… we think it’s very rational under these circumstances. Disruptive, I know, for some. But rational, we believe, in this moment.”

The California Department of Public Health issued other guidelines for crowded areas, too — most notably, limits on crowds gathered in grocery stores. The request says that markets should limit “the number of customers at any given time as necessary to reduce outdoor/indoor crowding and lines to meet social distancing guidance.”

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The governor’s requests came after state public health officials announced there are now 392 confirmed cases of the virus in California. Earlier, state lawmakers approved spending up to $1 billion on efforts to combat the pandemic.


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