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California Halts Many Indoor Businesses In 19 Counties As Coronavirus Cases Spike

Gov. Gavin Newsom is ordering 19 counties to shift many business operations outdoors or close them immediately, citing a sharp spike in new coronavirus cases. The state recorded nearly 6,000 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, the governor said.

"California is seeing the virus spreading at alarming rates in many parts of the state, and we are taking immediate action to slow the spread of the virus in those areas," Newsom said. He added, "We bent the curve in the state of California once, and we will bend the curve again."

Ranging from Los Angeles and Riverside to Sacramento and Fresno, the counties account for a third of the state's total. But Newsom noted, "These 19 counties represent over 70% of the population" in the state.

The order affects a wide range of businesses. Restaurants, wineries, zoos and museums in the affected counties are required to shift their operations outdoors. Bars, which are widely seen as a potential source for new outbreaks, won't have that option.

"Bars must close all operations," the governor's office said.

The order comes as service-industry businesses were preparing for the July 4 weekend – seen by many as a potential bright spot in an otherwise dismal economic year. The governor said the goal is to allow businesses to remain open while also reducing the chance for viral transmission.

"This doesn't mean restaurants shut down," Newsom said. "It means that we're trying to take as many activities as we can ... these concentrated activities, and move them outdoors" to lessen the threat of spreading the virus.

The guidance will remain in place for at least three weeks. Each of the counties has been on California's County Monitoring List — which it uses to highlight counties with worsening health trends — for at least three consecutive days.

The spike in cases in California has prompted some counties, such as Los Angeles, to cancel fireworks shows and close their beaches ahead of the upcoming holiday weekend. The state says it will close state beaches in any county that takes that step. And in another bid to reduce crowding, the state is closing all parking facilities for beaches in Southern California and the Bay Area over the weekend.

California reported a single-day record of 7,149 coronavirus cases last week.

"Yesterday, we recorded 5,898 new cases of COVID-19," Newsom said.

The state is also hitting record highs in COVID-19 hospitalizations, with more than 5,000 people now hospitalized. California had marked a new record just last week, when it reported 3,702 coronavirus patients were in the hospital. Before hitting that mark, the state had reached its previous peak in late April.

California is in Stage 2 of its reopening, allowing stores, offices and limited personal services to reopen with precautions. The plan also applies to outdoor museums and child care. The government is urging residents to stay home when possible and travel only for activities such as health care, outdoor exercise and recreation, and picking up food and other necessities.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.

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