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Coronavirus concerns prompts governor's executive order on large gatherings

Randall Benton/AP Photo
California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks to members of the press in Sacramento on Thursday. Newsom spoke about the state's response to novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

Large gatherings of more than 250 people should be postponed or canceled, according to an advisory by Gov. Gavin Newsom and California public health officials on Wednesday night.

To curb the spread of COVID-19, the state’s “public health experts have determined that gatherings should be postponed or canceled across the state until at least the end of March,” according to a press release from the governor’s office.

“Changing our actions for a short period of time will save the life of one or more people you know,” Newsom wrote in a statement. “That’s the choice before us. Each of us has extraordinary power to slow the spread of this disease.”

Newsom says canceling a concert or community event can have “cascading effects” and can save lives.

“The people in our lives who are most at risk — seniors and those with underlying health conditions — are depending on all of us to make the right choice,” he wrote.

Nonessential gatherings of fewer than 250 people will be permitted if organizers ensure that attendees will be at least six-feet apart from each other. Gatherings of individuals who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 should be limited to no more than 10 people.

The announcement notes that the new guidelines do not apply to certain essential activities, such as attendance at regular school classes, work, or essential services. That also includes "essential public transportation, airport travel, or shopping at a store or mall."

A link to the California Department of Public Health’s policy can be found here. CDPH has a full list of guidance documents for different groups here.

Officials also offered suggestions to make gatherings that are essential or small safer, including staggering start times, extending hours, using video conferencing, limiting the number of people in lines, and adding hand-washing stations.

As of March 10, there were 177 positive COVID-19 cases in California and three deaths linked to the disease in the state, according to the CDPH. Approximately 11,000 people are self-monitoring.

Counties throughout the state have been enacting policies to limit or slow the spread of the disease. San Francisco and Santa Clara counties banned gatherings of more than 1,000 people. The U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention suggested Santa Clara limit gatherings to 250 people.

On Wednesday the NBA announced it would be suspending the remainder of its season, and the Sacramento Kings canceled their planned game at the Golden 1 Center Wednesday night.

Sacramento, Placer and Yolo counties announced this week they were switching from trying to contain the disease to protecting those who are most seriously at risk for this virus. That included no longer recommending 14-day quarantines for those who had been exposed to the disease but who weren't yet showing symptoms.

“We’re recommending that those who are most at risk, the seniors and people with underlying conditions, avoid places of mass gatherings," Dr. Peter Beilenson, director of health services for Sacramento County, said Tuesday. "Avoid malls, avoid grocery stores as much as possible … They should buy two or three weeks of groceries at a time to keep the amount of time they have to go there at a minimum, and they should potentially go off hours."

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