SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday called for all bars, wineries, nightclubs and brewpubs to close in the nation’s most populous state and urged seniors and people with chronic health conditions to isolate themselves at home in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
The state also will reduce occupancy in restaurants by half to keep people farther from each other, Newsom said at a news conference.
“We require social distancing in these establishments,” the governor said, using the phrase that’s become part of everyday conversation about keeping away from others to prevent the spread of the illness.
It comes as the governors in Illinois and Ohio shut down all bars and restaurants and officials elsewhere said they were considering similar restrictions.
In California, the new orders are “guidelines” that “we have the capacity to enforce if necessary,” Newsom said.
The state has confirmed 335 cases of the virus and recorded its sixth death.
The virus usually causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But the governor is urging those 65 and older and people with chronic health conditions to stay at home because they can be hit with more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The Democratic governor’s announcement expanded guidance issued last week to cancel or postpone gatherings large and small that has roiled California’s economy, which is the fifth-largest in the world.
Carolyn Genco was sipping a cocktail at Beacon Bar And Grill near Lake Tahoe when the governor’s order came in. The schoolteacher from Phoenix had been snowshoeing after the nearby Heavenly ski resort closed Saturday over coronavirus concerns.
“I think the closures are the right thing to do. So what if I can’t go to a bar?” Genco said. “I have friends in Italy and I know what they’re dealing with over there. We’re behind the curve here, and we need to do more to take precautions.”
Genco said she hopes there’s a plan to help out bartenders and other workers who will lose paychecks during the crisis.
State health officials on Saturday urged movie theaters to keep attendance under 250 people and ask strangers to sit 6 feet (2 meters) apart. Gambling venues were told to limit 250 people per room and clean chips and slot machines more frequently, while theme parks and attractions were told to thin out crowds by staggering attendance.
Meanwhile, California is working with Verily, the life sciences arm of Google parent company Alphabet, to launch a tool to help people find coronavirus testing. An online portal would help people determine if they should be tested and would direct them to mobile testing units in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.
“We hope this Verily model can scale and be made national,” Newsom said.
The state has increased the number of available hospital beds and will be reopening shuttered medical centers in the coming days.
Some 5.3 million older Californians would fall under the directive asking seniors to stay indoors, the governor estimated.
He also said there would be a significant push to move many of the state’s 108,000 homeless people indoors. Though details remained unclear, he said the state had motels that could be used to provide shelter, along with 450 state-owned trailers set up before the outbreak.
The advisories were the latest effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus that has affected virtually every facet of life in California.
Some stores limited sales of toilet paper and other goods to combat hoarding. Thousands of people were being urged to work from home, if possible, rather than coming into the office. Colleges and universities have said they will hold classes online.
By Monday, up to 85% of California’s 6 million public school students will be out of their classrooms for up to five weeks, depending on the district, as schools look to limit the health risks. Some expanded spring break while others were taking a wait-and-see approach.
There were concerns that closing school cafeterias would deprive students of meals, especially those from poorer families. West Contra Costa Unified School District in the San Francisco Bay Area announced that any child under 18 will be able to pick up food at two high schools.
Meanwhile, San Francisco will shut libraries and indoor recreation centers to turn them into childcare centers for low-income families.
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