As coronavirus spreads, Sacramento County orders occupants to remain at home

With coronavirus cases and deaths rising in California, Sacramento County on Thursday became the latest region in the state to order residents to stay home and venture out only for essential activities to help stem the spread of the virus.

The Sacramento County health officer’s order, which goes into effect at 11:59 p.m., allows residents to leave their homes to get medication, visit a doctor or purchase food and other necessary supplies. Individuals are also permitted to attend private gatherings of no more than six nonrelatives in a home. Social distancing should be practiced at all times at gatherings, the order states.

“Each successive day for the past two weeks, local jurisdictions across Northern California have issued additional guidance and direction to limit the spread of COVID-19. Sacramento County has been no different,” Phil Serna, chairman of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, said in a prepared statement. “With today’s announcement, we have in place a well-planned enforceable order, and this latest step represents the conclusion of several sequential actions that have deliberately slowed virus transmission to date, and that will continue doing so well into the future.”

Many Californians isolated in their homes have watched as the number of confirmed cases continues to rise daily. As of Wednesday morning, the state has at least 892 cases and 17 deaths, compared with 157 cases and three deaths the week before. Nearly 12000 people in the state are self-monitoring for symptoms.

Sacramento County currently has 45 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and has had three people die of complications from the virus.

Kern County announced its first two cases of the coronavirus in county residents Thursday morning. Public health officials were investigating how the people were exposed to the virus and tracking any contact with others they may have had, the county Public Health Services Department said in a news release.

Fresno County reported its third case of the virus Wednesday evening: a person who was recovering in isolation at home. Officials said they think the case is travel-related.

And Tulare County announced two more cases Wednesday night, bringing its total to five. One was a person between the ages of 18 and 25 who had traveled to Europe and self-quarantined after returning home, officials said. The person was continuing to recover at home, and two contacts had been told to self-quarantine. The fifth case was a person over the age of 65 and “is considered person-to-person spread through direct contact,” the Tulare County Health and Human Services Agency’s Public Health branch said in a news release.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday evening said the state has asked the Department of Defense to deploy the Navy’s Mercy hospital ship and two mobile hospitals to California to help care for the expected surge in hospitalizations of residents stricken by the novel coronavirus.

The governor said the state is working to expand available hospital beds by roughly 20,000, the number needed if more than half of Californians come down with the coronavirus. Newsom’s order falls short of activating California’s National Guard force of roughly 22,000, and he emphasized that the state often relies on the Guard’s assistance in times of disaster and crisis, especially in response to wildfires and earthquakes.

“That’s just one scenario plan. There’s others that are more modest. Some may, some cases may be more extreme,” Newsom said Wednesday evening during a Facebook Live broadcast. “When you’re looking at getting an additional [19,000] to 20,000 beds in your system, you have to look at your existing surge capacity within the healthcare delivery system, and you have to look at procuring additional assets.”

The state estimates that surge capacity in California’s existing hospital system could accommodate 10,000 patients. If requests for the military medical assistance are granted, California should be close to reaching the 20,000-bed threshold, Newsom said.

In the meantime, more and more counties have ordered residents to stay in their homes to help stem the spread of the virus. Those who do venture out often find long lines and supermarket shelves stripped of cleaning supplies, toilet paper and other essential goods as shoppers continue panic-buying across the state.

Newsom said the troops would, in part, “make sure food delivery is happening appropriately” and ensure that customers do not overreact at stores.

“We want to make sure people know that their security is top of mind,” he said during a Tuesday briefing on the state’s response to the outbreak.

Ronald Fong, president of the California Grocers Assn., said markets are struggling to restock shelves because so many customers are buying an overabundance of food and supplies.

He urged customers to return to their normal grocery shopping routine, saying there is no shortage of food or necessities such as toilet paper — just an overwhelmed supply chain to the stores.

“The grocery stores are what the governor has deemed an essential service,” Fong said. “Grocery stores are going to stay open. But we cannot keep up with a shopping pattern that customers have adopted by overbuying.”

Newsom said National Guard troops would also assist local governments, but he did not offer specifics about their potential roles.

“The reality is cities can only do so much, and when you are not capable of doing a little bit more, and it becomes regionalized, that’s the appropriate role of the state of California,” Newsom said. “We just want folks to know we’re leaning in a little bit more aggressively in that space as well.”

Gov. Pete Wilson deployed the Guard after the 1992 Los Angeles riots, when troops patrolled streets and enforced a nighttime curfew.

Earlier this month, a California National Guard helicopter delivered supplies to the Grand Princess cruise ship when it was held off the San Francisco coast until some of the passengers and crew could be tested for the coronavirus. The ship eventually docked in Oakland.

More than 20 states have already called in their National Guard troops in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has said the department is considering activating National Guard units, the reserves and the Navy’s hospital ships to assist with stemming the outbreak.