CALIFORNIA – Newsom orders statewide closures, including gyms and churches in monitored counties

CALIFORNIA – Newsom orders statewide closures, including gyms and churches in monitored counties

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Desert Sun | Nicole Hayden & Maria Sestito | July 14, 2020

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday announced a list of business sectors required to close as the number of coronavirus cases continue to increase substantially across the state.

California’s average daily new cases hit 8,211 over the past week and 23 people died due to virus-related complications in the past 24 hours.

Bars and indoor operations at restaurants, wineries, zoos and family entertainment centers like bowling alleys are required to shut down in all counties — he previously ordered these closures in 19 counties with a concerning number of COVID-19 cases on July 1. The closures emphasize that outdoor activities are much safer than mingling with people inside, though Newsom said he’d prefer residents limit socializing all together.

Counties on the state’s targeted engagement list were also ordered to close additional businesses on Monday. The targeted counties, which account for 80% of the state’s population, are required to close indoor operations of fitness centers, places of worship, offices for non-critical sectors, personal hair services, and indoor malls.

“I’m not surprised,” said Father Howard Lincoln of Sacred Heart Catholic Church.

Despite having capacity to hold 1,400 congregants, the Palm Desert church had limited the number of people to 100 or less and posted numerous social distancing signs since reopening in June for daily mass, confessions and funerals. 

“We’ve done the best we can,” Lincoln said, noting that Plexiglass also was installed throughout the church.

“Our right to worship has to be tempered with our clear, moral responsibility to protect others from a highly contagious and sometimes fatal disease,” Lincoln said. “As a church, we preach ‘Love thy neighbor,’ it is certainly not too much of a sacrifice to wear a mask and socially distance and try to protect others. Our right to freedom of religion does not include the right to expose others to this highly communicable disease.”

The number of counties on the state’s targeted engagement list, which include Riverside and San Bernardino counties, increased from 19 to 30 since July 1. The state’s engagement list comprises counties that are struggling to contain the virus’ spread.

“As we struggle with national laboratory issues artificially depressing new case counts, people need to realize we’re far from being out of the woods,” said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, Riverside County public health officer, in a prepared statement. “We need to reduce the impact on our hospitals by reducing transmission, and as long as the numbers keep rising, the state’s need to reimpose restrictions will keep rising too.”

San Bernardino County spokesman David Wert said the county is “fine-tuning its education, engagement and enforcement efforts and expects to have a formal plan in place by the end of the week.” 

Placer, Sonoma, Sutter and Yuba counties joined the state’s watch list on Monday. Newsom expects two additional counties to be added in the coming days.

The governor did not include schools in his list of closures, though they are scheduled to resume in a few weeks in much of the state. But California’s two largest school districts, San Diego and Los Angeles, announced on Monday their students would start the school year with online learning only. LA Unified is the second-largest public school district in the country.

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