California governor issues statewide stay-at-home order

Governor Gavin Newsom issued a statewide stay-at-home order effective Thursday evening for all California counties as a new measure to bend the curve of those affected by the new coronavirus.  

The major announcement came after Newsom sent a letter to President Donald Trump asking for a hospital ship to be deployed to Southern California to assist in the fight against COVID-19. In the letter, Newsom projected that more than half the state's population could be infected by the disease. 

"In some parts of our state, our case rate is doubling every four days...We project that roughly 56 percent of our population -- 25.5 million people -- will be infected with the virus over an eight week period," Newsom said in the letter. 

Non-essential businesses must close, but those who work in critical sectors will still be able to report to work. Grocery stores, pharmacies, and banks will remain open per the order.

Activities like exercise, dog-walking and picking up takeout or delivery from restaurants are still allowed. 

The Democratic governor also announced that he is mobilizing 500 California National Guard troops to help with food distribution, but said they will be in place only for humanitarian reasons. 

"This is not a permanent state, this is a moment in time," said Newsom. "If we're to be criticized for this moment, let us be criticized for taking this moment seriously. Let us be criticized for going full force in meeting this virus head on." 

He announced that California had purchased the Seton Medical Center in Daly City. The 357-bed hospital was the city’s largest employer with about 1,500 workers, but the hospital’s owners filed for bankruptcy in August 2018.

In a separate letter, Newsom on Thursday asked U.S. House and Senate leaders for $1 billion to support surge planning for state and local health systems. He said that money would be needed to do things like set up state-run and mobile hospitals, housing options to help people socially distance and testing and treatment for people without health insurance.

Among other steps, the state has ordered additional ventilators, is talking with the University of California on use of dormitories, and has negotiated for hospital space in Northern and Southern California that will increase the state's capacity by 750 beds.

The lockdown will affect some 40 million people across the state. It mimics orders throughout the San Francisco Bay Area that went into effect earlier this week. 

Newsom said social pressure would help in regulation of the new order to alleviate the burdon on law enforcement. 

He said the restriction is "open-ended," and it could raise false hopes if he predicted how long the order might last. 

Associated Press and Bay City News wire services contributed to this rerport.