California Governor Gavin Newsom slammed the brakes on the state’s reopening efforts in response to a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases.
Newsom ordered an immediate halt to most indoor business activities. The governor’s sweeping ban includes an order for all California bars to immediately cease all operations. Restaurants, wineries, tasting rooms, family entertainment centers, zoos, museums, and card rooms will remain open, but they must suspend all indoor activities. The shutdown order also covers gyms, places of worship, malls, personal care services, barbershops, salons, and “non-critical offices”. The new lockdowns will affect 30 California counties and 80% of the state’s population.
A Surge in Cases Stops Reopening
As of Monday, California had more than 320,000 reported cases of COVID-19 with more than 7,000 deaths. This week, 23 people in the state have reportedly died from COVID-19 since Sunday. Los Angeles County’s 133,000 COVID-19 cases is the highest total in both the state and the country, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.
California was one of the first states to lockdown in March when the stateside coronavirus outbreak first kicked off. Governor Newsom began reopening the state in April, and the early stages of the reopening proceeded smoothly. However, cases began to surge in early June before spiking drastically. Over the past two weeks, the number of reported cases spiked by 48% while hospitalizations increased by 40%. The rapid uptick in infections led to Newsom’s decisions to reinstitute lockdown.
Education and The Pandemic
California’s coronavirus crisis is also weighing heavily on the state’s education system. This week, two of the state’s largest school districts said they would start the school year online. The two districts to officially decide on remote learning are the Los Angeles Unified School District, which is the second-largest school district in the US, and the San Diego Unified School District. All and all, the order affects roughly 800,000 students.
The two districts released a statement explaining their decisions: “The skyrocketing infection rates of the past few weeks make it clear the pandemic is not under control.” However, they also said that they will continue planning for a return to classroom learnings within the next academic year. The United Teachers Los Angeles Union said it supports the decision to keep schools closed. The union said an online survey of its members found that they believe schools should stay closed and focus on distance learning.
Newsom plans to come down hard on any businesses that try to circumvent the lockdown measures. He recently announced the launch of ‘multi-agency strike teams’ that would enforce the restrictions on California businesses. The teams will include representatives from the state’s Alcohol Beverage Control and Occupational Safety and Health Administration, along with police from the California Highway Patrol. The strike teams will search out and punish “non-compliant workplaces” with fines and possible criminal charges.
The order to shut down operations is a devastating blow for California’s small business community. Many locations were just beginning to get back on their feet after weeks of draconian shutdown orders. Meanwhile, federal aid programs for small businesses are running out of cash, and expanded benefits for unemployed workers are set to expire at the end of the month. The decision will undoubtedly have pronounced consequences for many Californians. Businesses in other states with rising case counts can only hope that their governors don’t follow suit.