Newsom issues evening curfew ahead of Thanksgiving week

Barbara Feder Ostrov
Contributing Writer for CalMatters, has reported on medicine and health policy for more than 15 years.

Gov. Gavin Newsom today announced a month-long curfew covering nearly all Californians to start Saturday, the latest in a series of tough new restrictions aimed at stopping the state’s alarming spike in COVID-19 cases. 

The curfew starting right before Thanksgiving week will shut down non-essential work and gatherings from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. and applies to all counties in the most restrictive purple tier of California’s reopening plan. The order will remain in effect until Dec. 21. 

Essential businesses, such as grocery stores, will be exempted. However, restaurants may offer takeout only after 10 p.m. and people can walk their dogs during curfew hours, California’s top health official said during an update today. 

“COVID can go from zero to 60 miles per hour very quickly,” said California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly today in a livestream update. “Today’s collective actions target activities that are particularly high risk while minimizing the social connections we all need. This will help stop the surge faster and avoid further restrictions.”

Ghaly said there is “no single culprit” behind California’s current spike in COVID-19 cases, citing a combination of colder weather bringing people indoors, gatherings for holidays like Halloween and Veteran’s Day, the gradual reopening of businesses across the state, and more people traveling. 

As California joins Ohio and other states in mandating curfews, public health experts are mixed on whether curfews are effective in curbing the spread of disease. Los Angeles County officials on Wednesday ordered restaurants, breweries, wineries, bars and other non-essential retail stores to close from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. —not a curfew, but a restriction on operating hours.

While business backlash has been intense to past state shutdown orders, initial reactions to the curfew were more muted. That’s in large part because many restaurants and breweries have already altered their operations more drastically — moving to takeout-only orders, investing in elaborate new outdoor dining setups or closing even earlier to keep costs down. Bars still open late are likely to bear the brunt of the new health orders.

“This curfew has very little, if any, impact on the brewing industry,” said Leia Bailey, associate executive director of the California Craft Brewers Association. 

The bigger issue, Bailey said, are ongoing contradictions in broader state business guidelines. 

Breweries, for instance, are classified as bars under current state rules, so they must serve a meal to open. That’s led to major expenses and logistical hassles for those that don’t already have full commercial kitchens, leaving them at the mercy of food trucks or other outside vendors to operate.

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