California nighttime curfew to start Saturday
Newsom limits movements from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. as the outbreak worsens; gatherings, restaurants affected; aim is to stop the spread of new infections
By Marisa Kendall, Evan Webeck, Roxana Kopetman and Anne Valdespinon | Staff writers
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday announced a curfew limiting the nighttime movements of more than 90% of Californians, including those in Orange County.
The order, intended to deal with a worrying surge in novel coronavirus cases, requires most non-essential work, movement and gatherings to stop between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. The order goes into effect 10 p.m. Saturday. It applies to counties in the purple tier — or 41 of the state’s 58 counties. That includes all Southern California counties. “The virus is spreading at a pace we haven’t seen since the start of this pandemic, and the next several days and weeks will be critical to stop the surge. We are sounding the alarm,” Newsom wrote in a news release. “It is crucial that we act to decrease transmission and slow hospitalizations before the death count surges. We’ve done it before and we must do it again.”
The idea is to reduce opportunities for disease transmission, according to the governor’s office, as activities taking place at night are more likely to be non-essential social gatherings, during which people may be more likely to become intoxicated — making them less likely to adhere to mask-wearing and other health guidelines.
The new curfew will affect some restaurants more than others, local owners say. Seen here, co-owner Kate Perry stands with owner and executive Chef Mark McDonald at Old Vine Kitchen & Bar at The Camp in Costa Mesa last year. MARK RIGHTMIRE — STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Under the order, people from the same household are allowed to venture out together after 10 p.m. as long as they don’t interact with anyone else. The order does not apply to people without housing.
Dr. John Swartzberg, clinical professor emeritus of infectious diseases and vaccinology at the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program, said he was “delighted” by Thursday’s curfew order.
“Because we need to be doing more aggressive things to take this on, to really change the direction that things are going,” he said. “Because they’re going very quickly in the wrong direction.”
Swartzberg would like to see the state go even further, even reverting to the full stay-at-home order imposed in March. But the curfew is an important step, he said. For one thing, it sends a strong message to the public that the surge in cases must be taken seriously.
There is no mention in the order of how the curfew will be enforced, which people on the Safe Places OC Facebook page, where Orange County residents post about the pandemic and safety measures, said is important to make the mandate effective.
“These measures need to be coupled with meaningful enforcement, or else the death toll will continue to increase,” said Huntington Beach resident Mark Bixby.
Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said in a statement that his department has taken an “education-first approach” to enforcing public health orders. “At this time, due to the need to have deputies available for emergency calls for service, deputies will not be responding to requests for face-coverings and social gatherings-only enforcement,” he said. With the holiday season around the corner, the governor’s order will mean fewer if any parties at O’Malley’s in Seal Beach, said manager Sean Byrne.
“It’s going to hurt even more,” said Byrne, whose Irish pub and restaurant on Main Street stays open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. “But we get up on Monday and just hope to get through the week. We’ll remain optimistic. There’s nothing else we can do.”
Bellflower-based Norms Restaurants, which boasted 24-hour breakfasts before the pandemic, now closes at 10 most nights and most locations but is open until 11 p.m. on weekends. That will change when the curfew goes into effect Saturday.
Norms’ top priority is the health and safety of its guests and staff, CEO and President Mike Colonna wrote in an email. “The greatest difficulty is in planning due to the circumstances of the ever-changing environment, but I can assure you Norms and the restaurant industry knows how to serve guests in a safe atmosphere.”
The curfew greatly concerns Mark McDonald, chef, co-owner of Old Vine Kitchen + Bar at The Camp in Costa Mesa. The restaurant recently remodeled its patio and offers outdoor dining, craft cocktails and an extensive wine list.
“It’s going to dramatically affect business because what do we do when we have an eight o’clock reservation and they’re not done eating at 10? Do we kick them out? What do we do?”
“I think it’s a little extreme,” McDonald said. “Orange County’s numbers, while they’re increasing, two categories are still in the red. I think a statewide order is a little harsh.”
Local restaurateurs also were concerned about the suddenness of the change and how quickly they would be forced to comply. Wil Dee, founder and CEO of Haven Gastropub and Provisions Deli Shop and cofounder of Chapman Crafted Beer in Orange, said each time the governor hands down a mandate business slows to a trickle and he can foresee waste and still having to pay the bills for what he’s ordered.
“What are we going to do with product that we’ve already ordered? Or we already have in house?” Dee said. “We’re a scratch kitchen. ... It’s Thursday already. Our second busiest day is tomorrow. And then our first busiest day is going to be Saturday. And our third busiest day is Sunday.”
Coronavirus cases are surging in California. The state reported more new infections in the past week than during any other seven-day period, and hospitalizations and deaths are increasing too.
On Wednesday, county health departments around California combined to report 11,646 new cases and 107 new deaths, according to data compiled by this news organization — the highest single-day death toll since Oct. 21 and just the third time at least 10,000 cases have been recorded on three consecutive days.
Newsom took steps earlier this week to reduce the spread, moving most counties back to the purple, or most restrictive, tier in his reopening plan — forcing them to shutter restaurant dining rooms and other indoor businesses.
Orange County residents asked on social media for their thoughts regarding the governor’s latest order offered some mixed opinions.
“Doesn’t mean much to me,” wrote Joshua Scheyving on a Garden Grove Facebook page. “I’m not doing stuff that late anyways ’cause I have a job I need to be up early for.”
Others likened the order to martial law. “Tyranny at its best,” wrote Pat Hernandez. “We will not comply.”
Curfews of varying intensity and other restrictions have been imposed around the country in recent days as virus cases surge nationally. New York last week mandated businesses with liquor licenses close indoor and outdoor dining by 10 p.m., and New York City on Thursday suspended in-person classes for students.
El Paso, Texas, imposed even stricter measures, requiring people to remain at home at night unless they’re required to travel for emergencies or essential services. Washington also imposed new restrictions throughout the state this week, including banning indoor social gatherings with people from multiple households unless participants quarantine beforehand. And Los Angeles County officials tightened restrictions on Tuesday, noting the potential for stricter orders if the numbers get substantially worse. Staff Writer Fielding Buck contributed to this report.
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