California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered that all of the state’s 40 million residents go into home isolation starting Thursday evening, marking the most stringent U.S. effort yet to stymie the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“This is a moment where we need some straight talk,” Newsom said in a press conference. “As individuals and as a community we need to do more to meet this moment.”

The shelter-in-place order vastly expands mandates put in place earlier this week across the San Francisco Bay Area. It allows people in the most populous U.S. state to leave their homes for needed items like groceries and medicine, while otherwise requiring that they limit their social interactions. Businesses not deemed essential will be shut.

As of Thursday evening, California had about 908 cases of the coronavirus and 18 deaths, a tally that’s lower than states including New York and Washington but sure to increase as testing accelerates. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday ordered businesses to keep 75% of their workforce home, though he’s stopped short of issuing a broad shelter-in-place requirement.

Newsom estimated that without action, an estimated 56% of Californians would be affected by the coronavirus, with a 20% hospitalization rate. That would mean the state would be more than 19,500 hospital beds short.

Those expectations “assume we’re just along for the ride,” Newsom said. “We’re not.”


The governor said he was mobilizing 500 national guard troops to help with food distribution. He’s asked the federal government for help in procuring more ventilators and said he was working with private companies to “repurpose” their manufacturing capacity to help build medical supplies.

Newsom said he couldn’t say long he thought the order would be necessary, though he doesn’t anticipate it would last for months if all the resources needed could be brought to bear and citizens heeded the mandate.

“If we’re to be criticized at this moment, let us be criticized for taking this moment seriously,” he said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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