SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday ordered the state’s 40 million residents to stay at home, restricting non-essential movements to control the spread of the coronavirus that threatens to overwhelm the state’s medical system.
“This is a moment we need to make tough decisions,” Newsom said. “We need to recognize reality.”
His move came after counties and communities covering about half the state’s population already had issued similar orders. He said the restriction is “open-ended,” and it could raise false hopes if he predicted how long the order might last.
He said infection rates are doubling every four days in some parts of the state and issued the dire prediction that 56% of California’s population could contract the virus over the next eight weeks.
His spokesman later confirmed that number does not take into account aggressive mitigation efforts underway across the state. Many large counties had already been issuing shelter-in-place orders aimed at keeping Californians confined to their homes and Newsom had directed the closure of bars, gyms and other gathering spaces statewide.
“This projection shows why it’s so critical that Californians take action to slow the spread of the disease — and those mitigation efforts aren’t taken into account in this projection,” spokesman Nathan Click said in an emailed statement.
Newsom’s letter to Trump said 25.5 million people could be infected. But the state’s population is estimated to be just shy of 40 million, meaning 56% of the population would be closer to 22.4 million people. The governor’s office did not respond to questions about his calculation or offer a prediction that considers efforts to stop the spread of the infection.