Newsom warns of more coronavirus restrictions, enforcement ahead of July 4 holiday weekend

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Gov. Gavin Newsom said he planned to announce new restrictions on Wednesday ahead of the July 4 holiday weekend, continuing to reverse course on reopening California as COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations rise.

“Tomorrow we’ll be making some additional announcements on efforts to use that dimmer switch that we’ve referred to and begin to toggle back on our stay-at-home order and tighten things up,” Newsom said. “The framework for us is this: If you’re not going to stay home and you’re not going to wear masks in public, we have to enforce, and we will.”

The governor, who often foreshadows his actions before he unveils them, warned that changes would also include restrictions on indoor gatherings but did not provide details. Newsom said family gatherings had been one of the “areas of biggest concern” as immediate and extended family members mixed together.

The average rate of positive cases in the state has grown to 5.6% in the last two weeks, with a sharper jump of 5.9% over seven days, Newsom said. The state is monitoring 19 counties that have fallen short of meeting guidelines for at least three days due to an increase in the spread of the virus, growing hospitalizations or a lack of hospital capacity. Newsom said he expected four additional counties to be added to the list on Wednesday.

California has 226,850 confirmed cases and more than 6,000 deaths from COVID-19, according to the Los Angeles Times tracker of the outbreak.

“We bent the curve in the state of California once. We will bend the curve again, mark my word,” Newsom said. “We will crush this pandemic. We will annihilate it. We’ll get past this, but we’re going to have to be tougher, and we’re going to have to be smarter in terms of our approaches.”

The governor provided an update on the virus Tuesday at a news conference outside a Motel 6 in the Bay Area city of Pittsburg, where he called attention to efforts to house the state’s homeless population.

The state launched an effort called Project Roomkey in April, with the goal of securing 15,000 hotel and motel rooms to provide short-term shelter for vulnerable homeless people during the COVID-19 pandemic. More than a month into the program, a review of state records found that only about half of the rooms were occupied. The Newsom administration claims the state has worked to house an estimated 13,000 people in 10,600 rooms. Newsom said on Tuesday that, to date, 14,200 people had been sheltered, and he touted an 85% occupancy rate for rooms under the program.

The Newsom administration expects the Federal Emergency Management Agency to ultimately reimburse state and local governments for up 75% of the cost of rooms, meals, security and custodial services.

The 2020-2021 state budget Newsom signed on Monday included $300 million for local governments to help protect Californians experiencing homelessness and $50 million to the Department of Social Services to secure hotel and motel rooms and trailers to shelter the homeless.

Now the state is attempting to transition the temporary program into more permanent housing under a new effort Newsom has dubbed Project Homekey, with $550 million from the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund to acquire rooms for longterm shelter. The funding, which will be provided to local governments through the Department of Housing and Community Development, must be spent by Dec. 30. The budget also includes another $50 million in state money to help locals operate the program.

“We’re providing unprecedented support for cities and counties to support a program for our most vulnerable residents,” Newsom said. “We’re making a real impact.”

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Officials in Los Angeles separately had set their own goal of placing 15,000 homeless people who were either medically vulnerable or older than 65 in motels and hotels that they had leased. City and county officials prioritized the part of the population they thought was most likely to die on the streets — with or without the pandemic.

After scrutinizing their own data, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Agency estimated that about 15,000 homeless people met the criteria set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as being the most susceptible to the virus. They are 65 or older and have multiple health conditions, including respiratory problems or diabetes.

As of Monday, 3,781 people had been housed and the pace of hotel and motel rooms being added to the county program had come to a standstill. Homeless people and outreach workers have complained about long waits as demand for the rooms has far outpaced the supply.

Taryn Luna covers Gov. Gavin Newsom and California politics in Sacramento for the Los Angeles Times.

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News – Newsom warns of more coronavirus restrictions, enforcement ahead of July 4 holiday weekend

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