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California governor calls for those 65 and over to self-isolation, closure of bars, tasting rooms

Faced with mounting coronavirus infections, California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday issued sweeping new restrictions in California, calling for home isolation of everyone in the state over age 65 and people with chronic disease, both high-risk populations.

He also asked for closure of bars, wineries, night clubs and brew pubs, and called for restaurants to reduce their occupancy by half. He called that “deep social distancing” and a “pragmatic response to the moment.”

The dramatic announcement, designed to keep people away from each other, stopped short of closing restaurants. Instead, the governor said they can also operate at reduced capacity and with curbside food service and at-home food deliveries.

The governor said his advise for self-isolation is effective immediately. He said will be setting up a system to help get food to needy home-bound seniors.

“We recognize that social isolation for millions of Californians is anxiety-inducing,” he said. But, “we need to meet this moment head on, and lean in and own this moment … and take actions we think are commensurate with the need to protect the most vulnerable Californians.”

The governor stopped short of issuing an edict, but said he expects businesses and citizens to follow his directions. “I am confident these guidelines will be well received and will be appropriately enforced. If it is not being (done), we will do what we need to do.”

“I have all the expectations in the world the guidelines will be followed on this.”

Governors in Ohio and Illinois issued similar measures on Sunday as the country stepped up what some criticize as slow efforts to curb the pandemic, which started in China in December and reached the U.S. several weeks ago.

The governor, speaking at a Sunday afternoon press conference, also announced the state will prohibit visitors to nursing homes, except in end-of-life circumstances. He said the state also will launch an effort to get homeless indoors in trailers and motels.

Newsom said he is taking the dramatic steps to slow the rate of infection and reduce the number of deaths by giving doctors and hospitals a chance to treat the most serious patients without becoming overwhelmed. The governor said there are 335 cases of coronavirus in California and that six people have died of the virus.

Pressure had been mounting on the governor in recent days as news poured in from Europe, where the pandemic has gone out of control in sections of Italy.

In stark contrast, earlier in the day, Rep. Devin Nunes had encouraged people to go out to restaurants. Sacramento city officials had encouraged the same earlier in the week.

Newsom said he stopped short of ordering restaurants to close because he feels the most vulnerable portion of the population, those 65 and older, will be kept away, and that he wants at this point to maintain a “productive society.” He said he wants restaurants to station dining groups at least six feet away from others.

“We are guided by the science, in a thoughtful way,” he said, “not a framework of hysteria.”

The governor said the state is in negotiations to prepare more hospitals for expected illnesses and will announce this week steps that will be taken to avoid residents being evicted from their residences as a result of business shutdowns.