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One year later: Key points that led up to California’s stay-at-home order

When Gov. Gavin Newsom issued the Stay-at-home Order exactly one year ago few could have imagined we would still be living our lives under extreme Covid restrictions 12 months later. Action News Now is taking a look back at the three weeks leading up to that historic announcement on March 19, 2020.

Posted: Mar 19, 2021 4:37 PM
Updated: Mar 22, 2021 11:50 AM

CALIFORNIA – When Gov. Gavin Newsom issued the Stay-at-home Order exactly one year ago few could have imagined we would still be living our lives under extreme Covid restrictions 12 months later. Action News Now is taking a look back at the three weeks leading up to that historic announcement on March 19, 2020.

"This is not a permanent state,” Gov. Newsom said as he announced the Stay-at-Home order. “This is a moment in time, and we will meet this moment together and we will look back at these kinds of decisions as pivotal decisions."

How stunning those words were on that day. California had a total of 1,030 Covid-19 cases. 18 people, statewide, had died. The head-spinning news of the lock-down announcement that day had most of us, at very least -- feeling a sense of disbelief.

"I just don't know about everyone sheltering in place, that kind of freaks me out a little bit," Lauren Evans of Chico said. Mark Sabatini also expressed concern, saying, "I’m a little bit nervous, a little bit concerned. I’m just wondering how long this will be in effect for."

Related: Part Two: Maintaining determination for restaurant survival in a pandemic

Just three weeks earlier, in Solano County, the country's very first case of community transmission was discovered. Yet, most of us couldn't have imagined how rapidly our lives were about to change, but the health experts could. "When you think about this virus this is a virus that's novel,” said Dr. Dean Blumberg of U.C. Davis Health. “That means nobody here has been exposed to it. That means we are all susceptible to it."

And with every passing day came more alarm bells, and by March 2nd, panic buying was well underway. By March 4, California’s first known Coronavirus death was reported in Placer County, at Kaiser Permanente in Roseville. By this point, the Coronavirus had our full attention.

Health officials confirmed that the patient who died in Roseville was a critically ill older adult who may have been exposed to the virus during a cruise from San Francisco to Mexico. The Smiths of Paradise were on that ship and spoke to Action News Now at the time from their cabin. "Obviously, we're all concerned,” said Steven Smith. “But we're doing what the captain asked us to do."

March 6, though no confirmed positive cases yet, Butte County declared a local emergency. Health officer Andy Miller expressed on that day that containment of the virus was unlikely. The Coronavirus was now dominating most of our attention, but still no confirmed cases in our region. That changed March 8th in Shasta County which reported a man in his 50’s tested positive.

Related: Part Three: Moving forward after a year of COVID-19 restrictions

March 11, a Wednesday, brought news that the world health organization officially declared a global pandemic. On the same day more stunning news came as a member of the Utah Jazz tested positive and within hours the NBA suspended its season.

Also shutting down that same day, Chico State, immediately frustrating students. "I am really sad,” said one student. “I really like going to my classes I don't think they should. I think there’s a threat but I think it’s less than what people think."

The next day, March 12, 2020, it was Disneyland announcing plans to shut down for "the rest of the month.” One year later the theme park is still closed. We still did not know what was coming. But on Monday, the 16th, every county in the Bay Area united to issue a shelter-in-place order. Also on that Monday, with the governor's stay-at-home order just days away, bars state-wide were ordered closed - something the owner of the Banshee in Chico had already made the decision to do. "The Coronavirus is very real and I don't think we can stay open any longer without knowing its effect on Butte County," Will Brady told Action News Now at the time.

Meanwhile, we were all learning new terminology, social distancing, PPE, which by now was in dangerously short supply. And by now, the Coronavirus picture was getting disturbingly clear. Most local school districts were closing down campuses, with Governor Newsom predicting most schools would not open before the end of the school year.

Two days later came the announcement from the governor far more stunning, telling 40-million Californians to stay home. In making the announcement Newsom said "this is a moment we need to make tough decisions, this is a moment where we need some straight talk and we need to tell people the truth. We need to bend the curve in the state of California and in order to do that we need to recognize.

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