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California Governor Orders All Residents to Stay Home

Brooke Phillips, CWCMS
Editor | Shield HealthCare
03/20/20  9:00 AM PST

Image of the Route 66 western terminus at the Santa Monica Pier, by Christian Beiwinkel on Wikimedia Commons

Staying at home “is not a permanent state,” California’s governor says.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday night ordered California’s almost 40 million residents to stay home except for essential trips, extending similar restrictions statewide that Bay Area counties had previously enacted.

The order, which is in place until further notice, exempts travel to essential services like grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations. In large swaths of the state, nonessential businesses like movie theaters, gyms and bars had recently been ordered to close. Restaurants have been limited to takeout or delivery only.

“This is not a permanent state, this is a moment in time,” Mr. Newsom said in a news conference. “We will look back at these decisions as pivotal.”

The announcement came shortly after Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles and other leaders from Los Angeles County, the nation’s most populous county, ordered that its residents stay in their homes as much as possible. “Tonight our responsibility is to save as many lives and flatten that curve,” Mr. Garcetti said. “This is an act of love.”

Mr. Newsom earlier said the state was projecting that 56 percent of California’s population would be infected with the virus over an eight-week period — a stunning disclosure that rippled through headlines. But on Thursday night, he said he hoped that the extraordinary measures would stop those projections from coming to pass.

“The point of the stay-at-home order is to make those numbers moot,” he said.

As of Thursday night, 1,040 cases of the coronavirus had been identified in California and 19 people had died, according to an analysis by The New York Times. But as recognition grows that many infections are undetected, leaders are focusing on ways to expand the capacity of stretched health care systems and help residents who were already teetering on a financial edge.

In a letter he sent to the Trump administration on Thursday, Mr. Newsom asked that the U.S. Navy hospital ship Mercy be sent to Los Angeles through Sept. 1 to help treat patients recovering from heart attacks, strokes and car crashes, as well as the likely surge of coronavirus patients.

The Trump administration is asking state labor officials to delay releasing the precise number of unemployment claims they are fielding, an indication of how uneasy policymakers are about further roiling a stock market already plunging in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

In an email sent Wednesday, the Labor Department instructed state officials to only “provide information using generalities to describe claims levels (very high, large increase)” until the department releases the total number of national claims next Thursday.

The email, which was shared with The New York Times, noted that the reports were monitored closely by financial markets and should therefore remain embargoed. “States should not provide numeric values to the public,” wrote Gay Gilbert, the administrator of the department’s Office of Employment Insurance.

Ms. Gilbert has worked at the Labor Department under presidents of both parties, and there has been no indication that she was urged by political appointees to make the request. But President Trump has privately expressed irritation at the dire predictions of some of his advisers, most notably when Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told lawmakers that unemployment could reach 20 percent this year.

Some states that received the guidance from Ms. Gilbert found it disturbing. It prompted at least one governor’s office, which shared the message on the condition of anonymity, to seek an opinion from the state attorney general about whether the state had to temporarily withhold the information.

In another state, lawmakers got a preview of the staggering numbers that are being withheld for the moment. In a private conference call Thursday with elected officials and union leaders, a top Pennsylvania labor official was blunt about the depth of the economic crisis, according to someone on the call.

Robert O’Brien, the state’s deputy secretary of labor and industry, said the government had been overwhelmed by a flood of unemployment insurance claims — 180,000 in the last few days. He said that was far more than the state usually gets in a whole month.

The situation may be even more dire in Washington State, the first center of the contagion in the United States. State officials there would only say they are seeing an “even more dramatic increase this week” after unemployment claims soared 150 percent last week.

The federal numbers released Thursday morning were already alarming: 281,000 people nationwide applied for unemployment insurance last week, up from 211,000 the previous week. They were apparently only a grim preview of what is to come.

Read full article on the New York Times. *Note: The New York Times, like some other major publishers, has removed their paywall for Coronavirus-related content.  Per the New York Times: “We are providing free access to the most important news and useful guidance on the coronavirus outbreak to help readers understand the pandemic. Sign up with an email address to read all of the articles.”

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