California Gov. Newsom calls for home isolation for all seniors, bars to close, restaurants to limit capacity

Stopping short of a state order, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday called for the home isolation of all seniors and those who are health compromised in the state of California and the immediate shutdown of bars, nightclubs, brew pubs and wineries to help stop the spread of coronavirus, now considered a global pandemic. 

In addition, Newsom said all restaurants should reduce capacity by half and provide "deep social distancing."

In terms of hospital visits, Newsom said there should be no more of these unless it was "end of life." The state has confirmed 335 cases of the virus and recorded its sixth death. The virus usually causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But the governor is urging those 65 and older and people with chronic health conditions to stay at home because they can be hit with more severe illness, including pneumonia.

Finally, he said that on Monday, he may announce possibly halting evictions in California. 

He said he realized that these are harsh measures and that isolation is hard, especially when 85 percent of California's school children won't be in school on Monday. He acknowledged that many workers need a paycheck and times will be tough.

Newsom said he called for these measures because the public must anticipate the rapid spread of COVID-19, and people need to think about those who are older, chronically ill and homeless. He said California had about 5.3 million people who are 65 or older. 

"The most important thing is to focus on the vulnerable and prioritize their safety," Newsom said. "We are guided by science, not the framework of hysteria." 

Another vulnerable population Newsom is focusing on is California's homeless population. The state is securing hotels, motels and trailers to house the homeless to increase social distancing in the face of the pandemic. 

In the question and answer period with reporters, Newsom clarified that he is not ordering the shutdown but he expects his requests on restrictions to be upheld. 

The exact details of how to deliver meals and pharmaceuticals to seniors are still being worked out, Newsom said, but he said "this is what we do."

Newsom issued guidance last week to cancel or postpone gatherings large and small that have roiled California’s economy, which is the fifth-largest in the world. He said even though that call was voluntary, as far as he knows, everyone has adhered to his guidance. On Sunday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called for the banning of all public events of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks. 

Absent a national lockdown order, such as ones implemented across the globe in France and Spain, individual U.S. government leaders this weekend began implementing orders for people to stay in the house and for businesses to close or offer restricted services. 

The political leaders of Los Angeles, Boston, New Jersey, Ohio and Illinois, to name some, all imposed restrictions on bars and restaurants, cutting capacity and restricting hours.

The governor of Illinois, J.B. Pritzker, for example, said said bars and restaurants must close at the end of business day on Monday. The mayor of Teaneck, New Jersey asked all residents to self-quarantine, and to only leave their homes to get food or medicine. 

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Reaction was mixed to Newsom's order. Some Californians applauded his decision. Others thought it was unfair. Almost everyone worried how it would play out on businesses and the employees who now would be out of a job, or at least would have their hours severely cut. 

In downtown Los Angeles, Sarah Meade, owner of the restaurant and bar Here & Now, said she expected her business to drop by at least 50% in the coming days. She said she is considering signing up for food delivery apps so she can afford to pay her employees.

She faulted the government for not instituting social-distancing rules sooner.

“We wouldn’t have to be here if things had been done early,” Meade said. “Maybe it only lasts two weeks, but how long is it going to take to recover?”

A customer, Aundra Herman, sipped a beer and said she planned to buy gift certificates to help support local businesses during the slowdown.

In Northern California, Carolyn Genco was sipping a cocktail at Beacon Bar And Grill near Lake Tahoe when the governor’s order came in. The schoolteacher from Phoenix had been snowshoeing after the nearby Heavenly ski resort closed Saturday over coronavirus concerns. 

Genco said she hopes there’s a plan to help out bartenders and other workers who will lose paychecks during the crisis.

“I think the closures are the right thing to do. So what if I can’t go to a bar?” Genco said. “I have friends in Italy and I know what they’re dealing with over there. We’re behind the curve here, and we need to do more to take precautions.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Oakland, Calif.