California governor orders indoor operations at bars and other venues in 19 counties to close

Gov. Gavin Newsom also closed beach parking lots in Southern and Northern California for the July Fourth weekend.
Newsom closes bars as Covid-19 surges
A bartender serves drinks at Elvies Public House in Covina, Calif. on June 28, 2020.Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

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By Tim Stelloh

California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered much of California to shutter indoor operations at restaurants, museums, bars and other venues on Wednesday as the state’s coronavirus caseload continues to surge.

The order applies to 19 of the state’s 58 counties and will remain in effect for three weeks. They range form Imperial on the Mexican border to Los Angeles on the coast, Merced in the Central Valley and Santa Clara in Silicon Valley.

Newsom also ordered parking facilities at state beaches in Southern California and the Bay Area closed during the Independence Day weekend.

“I deeply respect people's liberty, their desire to go back to the way things once were, but I cannot impress upon you more: Our actions have an impact on other people," he told reporters Wednesday. "There’s a reason in this country we require seat belts.”

The order comes amid rising coronavirus case numbers and hospitalizations in the state. According to state data, for the first few weeks of June there were roughly 1,000 to 1,100 people in intensive care units each day. But by the last week of the month, that number continued to tick up daily and by June 29, the last day for which data is available, there were 1,528 people in ICUs.

The number of new cases also remained on an upward trajectory, the data shows.

In May, there were roughly 1,000 to 2,000 new cases confirmed daily. By mid-June, that number had doubled. On June 23, more than 7,000 new cases were confirmed in a single day, the most since the pandemic began.

An NBC News tally has recorded more than 231,000 cases and 6,000 deaths in the state.

On Wednesday, Newsom said that family gatherings with people who aren't part of an immediate household were partly to blame for the surge in cases. But he also said officials are trying to force indoor activities outside as "a way of mitigating the spread of the virus."

Wednesday's order followed another reversal: After bars reopened in parts of the state earlier this month, Newsom ordered seven counties to immediately close them back down on Sunday. He recommended that eight other counties do the same.

Epidemiologists have described the businesses as the "perfect set up" for spreading coronavirus.

Other states like Texas and Florida have also seen a recent spike in cases, and officials there have ordered some indoor venues to close. Arizona became one of the latest examples, with Gov. Doug Ducey ordering bars, gyms and movie theaters shuttered for the next month.