As California experiences a surge in COVID-19 cases, Orange County has returned to the strictest reopening tier on Monday, meaning indoor operations at fitness centers, restaurants, movie theatres, places of worship and other non-essential businesses must close.
Orange County is among 28 other counties in California that will restart strict restrictions to combat a rise in statewide coronavirus cases, Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a press conference on Monday.
Forty-one out of 58 counties will be placed in the purple tier, the most restrictive of the four tiers in the governor’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy plan. Businesses such as restaurants, movie theaters, gyms and places of worship can stay open in an outdoor capacity only. Bars and breweries where no food is provided must close. These guidelines will take effect Tuesday.
The counties of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino were already in the purple tier, and with Newsom’s new announcement, nearly all of Southern California is back under strict closure.
The new set of restrictions come as California experienced a 51.3% rise in daily coronavirus cases during the first week of November, the largest increase since a 39.2% rise in June.
“We want to see the application and implementation of these new-tiered status occur in a 24-hour period,” Newsom said.
Counties can now lessen or tighten restrictions based on data from a one-week period as opposed to the two-week marker that was used previously, Newsom said.
Emily Godinez, a child development major at Cal State Fullerton, said that based on her experience working in retail, Orange County residents and businesses have not taken the virus or the precautions seriously, so the recent spike in cases was not a surprise.
“Our policies enforce masks and stuff but when we have customers that don't want to wear them, we can't really do anything and then plus, if you follow them around and they're not wearing masks, so you're putting yourself in that situation to protect the other customers,” Godinez said. “It's not as safe as it should be.”
Newsom emphasized that the “emergency brake” is in response to a trend of higher test positivity rates and hospitalizations since the beginning of the month and the rapid approach of Thanksgiving.
“We must keep transmission low, and that’s to avoid flooding the healthcare delivery system,” said Mark Ghaly, the California Health and Human Services Agency secretary.
Since the beginning of October, California positivity rates have steadily climbed from 3.2% on Nov. 2 to 4.6% on Nov. 16. Hospitalizations have also increased from 2,602 on Nov. 2 to 3,852 on Nov. 15, an increase of 48% during the two-week period.
The spike comes right before the holiday season, where some residents looked forward to seeing family members.
“I think it’s really unfortunate for the holidays, especially for people whom that’s their only opportunity to see loved ones,” said Tannan Luzzo, a public relations major at CSUF. “For this to rip that away after an already terrible year really sucks.”
Ghaly said the state’s fight against COVID-19 will depend on its ability to keep the hospitals and workers from becoming overwhelmed by incoming patients.
“As we see winter right around the corner, cases starting to increase of COVID, the need to be prepared for flu, really protecting those workers and those facilities is key to our success in the state,” Ghaly said.
Newsom also said that the state will consider the use of a curfew for industries and businesses, though there is no word on when this may happen.
But to some residents like Godinez, the curfew is the only hope for Orange County to reduce the number of cases.
“Nothing’s going to get better until you're locked in your house at 8 p.m.,” Godinez said.
Orange County, like other counties, has fallen into an overall downward spiral with a cumulative of about 60,000 COVID-19 cases.