California guidance against gatherings likely to be extended

Gov. Gavin Newsom says sweeping guidance for Californians to avoid large gatherings will likely extend beyond March.

Posted: Mar 12, 2020 8:27 AM
Updated: Mar 13, 2020 11:52 AM

UPDATE: 11:25 p.m. Thursday, March 12 - Gov. Gavin Newsom says sweeping guidance for Californians to avoid large gatherings will likely extend beyond March.

The statewide guidance applies to sporting events, concerts and even smaller social gatherings in places where people can't remain at least 6 feet apart.

He said Thursday that he expects it will affect the Major League Baseball season that begins at the end of the month. But so far, the guidance has not been extended to Disneyland or to casinos and card rooms. It is not an official ban on big gatherings.

Newsom said California's legal authority is limited when it comes to enforcement but he expects people to adopt the recommendations.

Newsom also discussed matters regarding the Grand Princess cruise ship docked in Oakland, California. He says nearly 500 passengers remain aboard the ship. He hopes they will all be off the ship by the end of the day Thursday.

In addition to the 21 people who previously tested positive while aboard the ship, Newsom says at least two more people have tested positive after leaving.

Newsom expects the number to climb as more people are tested.

He says the refusal by Lachland Air Force Base in Texas to take non-Texan U.S. citizens “has not helped our logistics to be candid with you."

Newsom says that bases in California and Georgia have welcomed other stranded Americans.

The ship was carrying about 3,500 passengers and crew when it docked earlier this week in Oakland.

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Gov. Gavin Newsom has issued sweeping, statewide “guidance” in response to the coronavirus pandemic, asking Californians to postpone all non-essential gatherings through the end of March, including even small social gatherings in places where people can’t remain at least six feet apart.

The California Department of Public Health advisory issued shortly before midnight Wednesday also says gatherings of 250 people or more should be postponed or canceled, and gatherings of people at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 should be limited to no more than 10 people.

“Not holding that concert or community event can have cascading effects — saving dozens of lives and preserving critical health care resources that your family may need a month from now,” Newsom said in a statement. “The people in our lives who are most at risk – seniors and those with underlying health conditions -- are depending on all of us to make the right choice.”

The advisory defines a “gathering” as anything “that brings together people in a single room or single space at the same time, such as an auditorium, stadium, arena, large conference room, meeting hall, cafeteria, or any other indoor or outdoor space.”

“This applies to all non-essential professional, social, and community gatherings regardless of their sponsor,” the guidance says.

The goals are to delay the rates of transmission and death by reducing the number of people who contract COVID-19 before an effective treatment or vaccine is available, protect the elderly and chronically ill, and to preserve and protect the health care system’s capacity to respond, it says.

The guidance vastly expands local and case-specific responses to the outbreak around California.

California cities have started instituting ever-increasing methods to curtail spread of the virus. San Francisco, Oakland and Santa Clara County, which includes San Jose, banned gatherings of 1,000 or more people.

The Los Angeles City Council announced it would hold just one public meeting a week instead of the usual three for the remainder of the month.

Corrections officials canceled daily visits at all state prisons until further notice. There are no suspected or confirmed cases of the virus at any lockups and the move was made as part of wider prevention efforts.

Meanwhile, officials in Oakland will continue Thursday with the painstaking process of disembarking more than 2,000 passengers from the cruise ship Grand Princess and moving them to military bases around the U.S. for a two-week quarantine. More than 20 passengers have been diagnosed with the virus, as well as 19 crew members.

Princess Cruises announced a two-month pause of global operations on Thursday that will gradually sideline all 18 of its cruise ships. Company president Jan Swartz said the decision was difficult but necessary, given that the company normally serves 50,000 guests from 70 countries.

Health officials on Wednesday defended their approach of not quarantining the Carlton Senior Living facility in Elk Grove after a woman in her 90s there died of the coronavirus, even as a new dispute arose over whether Sacramento County officials were getting a sufficient number of kits to test for the virus.

Carlton Senior Living, which has 13 assisted living facilities in Northern California, said the resident in Elk Grove, near Sacramento, died at a hospital Tuesday.

Tyler Cooke of Sacramento, whose mother lives at the facility, said he first learned that a resident was infected through a media report and hasn’t gotten updates on what is being done to help his mother, who is 71 and has “a plethora of health issues.”

A Carlton spokesperson did not return calls and emails seeking additional information.

Sacramento County public health spokeswoman Brenda Bongiorno said isolation order precautions include limiting visitor access, freezing new admissions to the facility, closing common areas and enhanced cleaning measures. She would not release information on other residents in quarantine or whether any residents or employees were showing symptoms or tested positive.

No information about the woman who died has been released by Carlton or local health officials. Sutherland said she was 97, chair of the facility’s food committee and “always very friendly.”

On Tuesday, Sacramento County health director Peter Beilenson indicated frustration at the pace of testing for the disease. Under federal guidelines, the county is only allowed to process 20 tests per day.

California Health and Human Services Agency spokeswoman Kate Folmar said state public health officials on Tuesday provided Sacramento County “with enough testing supplies to test 300 specimens, so that the county can address any testing backlog it may have including people at the assisted living facility. More supplies are coming.”

Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said the question is not so much having enough kits as how fast they can be processed. Her county can run about 30 tests per day using just one machine and have ordered two more.

Newsom and Ferrer said they expect more supplies to be delivered soon, but she said in the meantime the county lab could still perform “hundreds and hundreds” of tests.

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