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California To Shut Down Indoor Activities Amid New Surge In Coronavirus Cases

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

California is shutting down again. Today Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered the statewide closure of indoor restaurants, bars and other entertainment venues. He says an average of 8,200 people have tested positive every day over the past week.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GAVIN NEWSOM: It's incumbent upon all of us to recognize soberly that COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon until there is a vaccine and/or an effective therapy.

CHANG: California is among the states seeing a steady increase in COVID-19 cases. And Marisa Lagos from member station KQED in San Francisco is following the governor's actions. She joins us now.

Welcome.

MARISA LAGOS, BYLINE: Thanks for having me.

CHANG: So what's the extent of today's closure order? I mean, what's actually changing for us here in California compared to even just a day ago?

LAGOS: Yeah. I mean, I would say the main thing is that this is a statewide order. There are no exceptions for any counties or cities. The governor is saying essentially all indoor dining, drinking - places like movie theaters, museums and zoos, any entertainment venues that are inside have to shut down. In addition to that, he's saying that 30 counties where they're seeing an uptick in cases - real quick uptick are also going to have to shutter inside gyms, malls, salons, places of worship. And that's because of, obviously, those spikes in those counties, which the state's been monitoring.

CHANG: I mean, we have been hearing about this uptick in cases. Why is Gov. Newsom ordering these steps right now?

LAGOS: I think the difference is that, you know, since we shut down and then started reopening back in May, California gave a lot of, like, power to counties to decide how fast to go, which sectors to reopen. But they had to be hitting certain metrics around caseloads, hospitalizations, et cetera. And in recent weeks, we've seen these cases continue to rise, and hospitalizations are increasing too. So I think what the governor is saying is that while we still have a lot of ICU beds available, we're seeing, even in some rural areas, critical care capacity being approached in hospitals. And Newsom thinks that the state needs to do what he calls the dimmer switch. He says this isn't a full shelter-in-place again, but he is concerned about the trends and that the state needs to kind of toggle depending on how those numbers look.

CHANG: And what about testing? Where does coronavirus testing stand in California at this point?

LAGOS: It's hard to say. Like, it feels like we're doing better here than some places. We know that the state has reached an average of over 100,000 tests a day, which is quite a bit compared to where we were just a few months ago. But results can be really slow to come back. We're, in some areas, facing problems getting the materials to do the testing. And I think the variances around the state are concerning. Here in San Francisco, I was able to get test results back in less than a day. I have friends in more rural areas who - where it can take more than two weeks. And so it's really all over the map.

CHANG: Yeah. OK. Well, Gov. Newsom is shutting down portions of the private sector. But where does he stand on schools reopening?

LAGOS: So this is a place where he's not making any statewide mandates. He's leaving it up to districts. He says the state will continue to issue guidelines, but they're not putting in requirements the way they are for the private sector. So just today Los Angeles and San Diego counties - school districts said they won't reopen in person this fall. And that's probably going to follow suit around a lot of districts. But some places like Orange County have proposed opening up entirely; no masks, no social distancing. And I think there's a lot of concern in communities there about what that means.

CHANG: That is Marisa Lagos of member station KQED in San Francisco.

Thank you, Marisa.

LAGOS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.