LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – California’s governor on Thursday issued an unprecedented statewide “stay at home order” directing the state’s 40 million residents to hunker down in their homes for the foreseeable future in the face of the fast-spreading coronavirus pandemic.
FILE PHOTO: California governor Gavin Newsom speaks at a news conference in San Diego, California, U.S. October 9, 2019. REUTERS/ Mike Blake
Governor Gavin Newsom’s directive, effective immediately, marks the largest and most sweeping government clampdown yet in the worsening public health crisis brought on by the COVID-19 outbreak, which he predicted could infect more than half the state within eight weeks.
“We are confident the people of California will abide by it, they will meet this moment,” Newsom, a Democrat in his first term as governor of the nation’s most populous state, said at a late-afternoon news briefing from the state capital in Sacramento.
“They’ll step up as they have over the last number of weeks to protect themselves, to protect their families and to protect the broader community in this great state and the world we reside in.”
Newsom said the order was essential in light of modeling by experts that showed roughly 56 percent of the state’s residents, or 25 million people, would contract the respiratory illness in the next eight weeks. Such numbers would require nearly 20,000 more hospital beds than the state could provide.
Already more than 1,000 Californians have been confirmed as infected and 18 have died, the third largest death toll in the United States behind only Washington state and New York.
California is home to some 40 million people, including an estimated 108,000 homeless. Newsom said exceptions to the stay-at-home rule would be granted for residents to make necessary trips to grocery stores, pharmacies, doctors and in some cases work. He did not give an end date for the order but suggested that it would last for at least eight weeks.
Newsom earlier on Thursday asked President Donald Trump to send a U.S. Navy hospital ship to the port of Los Angeles “immediately” as the state braces for the expected surge in the number of coronavirus cases.
He said Los Angeles, as the nation’s second-largest city, would likely be “disproportionately impacted” by the pandemic in the coming weeks.
Trump earlier this week said he would deploy two Navy hospital ships, one to each coast, but defense officials have said that they were yet ready to take on patients.
In a separate letter sent to U.S. congressional leaders, Newsom asked for additional federal funding for unemployment insurance and social safety net programs and aid to small businesses, schools and universities.
Reporting by Dan Whitcomb and Steve Gorman; Editing by Bill Tarrant & Simon Cameron-Moore