AP NEWS

California governor calls for closure of all bars, wineries

March 16, 2020 GMT
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California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks to reporters about his executive order advising that non-essential gatherings of more than 250 people should be canceled until at least the end of March, during a news conference in Sacramento, Calif., Thursday, March 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
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California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks to reporters about his executive order advising that non-essential gatherings of more than 250 people should be canceled until at least the end of March, during a news conference in Sacramento, Calif., Thursday, March 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday called for all bars, wineries, nightclubs and brewpubs to close and urged seniors and people with chronic health conditions to isolate themselves at home in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Restaurants may remain open but can serve only half as many as their maximum occupancies to create space between diners, Newsom said at a news conference.

Newsom said he recognizes the increasing isolation for millions of Californians is “anxiety-inducing” but said the moves are necessary to protect the state″s most vulnerable residents.

California has confirmed 335 cases of the virus and six deaths. The virus usually causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But the governor is urging the state’s 5.3 million people 65 and older and people with chronic health conditions to stay at home because they can be hit with more severe illness, including pneumonia.

Last week, Newsom recommended all nonessential gatherings gatherings be limited to 250 people, prompting the temporary closure of numerous businesses, performances and meetings.

Virtually every school district in the state also has announced closures, with most starting Monday.

Other states have gone farther, ordering all schools to close. Governors in Illinois and Ohio also shut down all bars and restaurants. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti took that more aggressive step hours after Newsom’s announcement.

Garcetti said until at least March 31 restaurants in the city may only offer pickup, delivery and drive-through service. He also closed gyms, movie theaters, bowling alleys and arcades, and placed a moratorium on evictions. Grocery stores and pharmacies will remain open.

“I have not taken these steps lightly,” Garcetti said. “To some it may feel wrong, but I would say it’s exactly when things feel wrong that it is the right time to do them. And when things feel right, it’s too late. We need to take these steps to protect our city right now.”

Newsom’s order was stunning and far-reaching but those interviewed Sunday were supportive.

Linda York, 65, of San Jose, said she plans to follow Newsom’s orders and only leave home to walk with her dog, Cara. She said she has enough food for a month for her and her 65-year-old husband, a physicist who plans to continue working.

For the next few weeks, she plans to use her new camera for nature photography and do projects around the house. She said the quarantines and closures make it feel like “something real is happening now. We can’t escape what happens next.”

Carolyn Genco was sipping a cocktail at Beacon Bar And Grill near Lake Tahoe when Newsom made his announcement. The schoolteacher from Phoenix had been snowshoeing after the nearby Heavenly ski resort closed Saturday over coronavirus concerns.

“I think the closures are the right thing to do. So what if I can’t go to a bar?” Genco said. “I have friends in Italy and I know what they’re dealing with over there. We’re behind the curve here, and we need to do more to take precautions.”

Genco said she hopes there’s a plan to help out bartenders and other workers who will lose paychecks during the crisis.

For a week, California has been issuing ever-increasing directives aimed at slowing the spread of the virus.

State health officials on Saturday urged movie theaters to keep attendance under 250 people and ask strangers to sit 6 feet (2 meters) apart. Gambling venues were told to limit 250 people per room and clean chips and slot machines more frequently, while theme parks and attractions were told to thin out crowds by staggering attendance.

California is working with Verily, the life sciences arm of Google parent company Alphabet, to launch a tool to help people find coronavirus testing. An online portal would help people determine if they should be tested and would direct them to mobile testing units in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.

“We hope this Verily model can scale and be made national,” Newsom said.

The state has increased the number of available hospital beds and will be reopening shuttered medical centers in the coming days.

Newsom said there would be a significant push to move many of the state’s 108,000 homeless people indoors. Though details remained unclear, he said the state had motels that could be used to provide shelter, along with 450 state-owned trailers set up before the outbreak.

By Monday, up to 85% of California’s 6 million public school students will be out of their classrooms for up to five weeks, depending on the district, as schools look to limit the health risks. Some expanded spring break while others were taking a wait-and-see approach.

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Associated Press reporters Don Thompson in Lake Tahoe and Jocelyn Gecker in San Francisco contributed.