(Headline USA) A majority of Californians are under a nighttime curfew beginning Saturday, and the state’s largest county warned that an even more drastic lockdown could be imminent.
The newest restrictions require people to stay home from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. unless they are responding to an emergency, shopping for groceries, picking up takeout or walking their dogs. The monthlong curfew could be extended if the news media remains hysterical.
Authorities say the focus is on keeping people from social mixing and drinking — the kinds of activities that are blamed for causing positive COVID-19 tests to soar after dipping only a few months ago.
“I think this is best way to get ahead of this thing, so we can all move forward,” said Eric Gore, an Oakland musician. “My work depends on nightlife. But I’ve been staying home to keep myself safe.”
Dr. Mark Cullen, an infectious disease expert who recently retired from Stanford University, said the underlying goal is based on a reasonable interpretation of data.
“Large numbers of people getting together oblivious of controls — no masks, no social distancing, often indoors — a lot of those things are in fact occurring at night,” Cullen said.
However, he also questioned whether a limited curfew will be effective.
The curfew applies to 41 of the state’s 58 counties that are in the “purple” tier, the most restrictive of four state tiers allowing various stages of economic reopening.
Those counties encompass 94% of the nearly 40 million people living in the most populous U.S. state.
California as a whole has seen more than 1 million cases, with a record of almost 15,500 new cases reported Friday.
Los Angeles County, the state’s largest with about 10 million people, could see even more stringent lockdowns as early as next week.
The county accounts for a quarter of the state’s 40 million residents, but it has about a third of the coronavirus cases and close to 40% of the deaths.
County public health Director Barbara Ferrer said Friday that the county had 4,272 new positive tests in a single day and 13,247 over the past three days. The rate of positive COVID-19 tests has jumped to 7.3%, and nearly 1,300 people have been hospitalized.
“We’re seeing cases increase at a faster rate than we saw over the summer,” Ferrer said. “The data looks really bad now and we’ve had … three terrible days in terms of case rates and increases in hospitalizations.”
Violators could face fines or be charged with a misdemeanor, and businesses could have their business licenses revoked. But counties are mainly responsible for enforcement.
Officials in El Dorado, Fresno, Los Angeles, Orange, Placer, Sacramento, San Bernardino and Stanislaus counties were among those saying they would not enforce the curfew, with some strongly opposed.
“I think it’s unlawful and unconstitutional. The government has stripped us of our civil rights, using the virus to do that,” said Alan Hostetter, who organized a curfew-breaking protest in San Clemente set for 10:01 p.m. He said several similar protests were planned across the state Saturday night.
In Huntington Beach, a restaurant owner who has been denouncing Gov. Gavin Newsom’s orders since March said he will open an hour past the curfew.
Pushback on COVID-19 rules also came from groups representing thousands of fitness centers. Most gyms in the state have closed or are limited to outdoors.
The California Fitness Alliance said the Newsom administration is using “arbitrary criteria that defy both science and common sense … to determine the level of risk at which businesses must close, causing thousands of Californians in the fitness field to lose their jobs.”
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press.