A day ahead of the usual Tuesday update to the state's county-by-county COVID metrics, Governor Gavin Newsom and Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly had a press conference to announce they were pulling the "emergency brake" as 41 out of the state's 58 counties are now in the most restrictive "Purple" tier for virus spread.
As of Monday, San Francisco and San Mateo counties are sliding back to the "Red" tier — with San Francisco sliding two tiers from the least restrictive "Yellow" tier, where the city has been for over a month. The slide backwards is likely to prompt city officials to further restrict business activities, though those announcements haven't arrived.
Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, Napa and Solano counties are all sliding back to the "Purple" tier today. Sonoma County has not left the most restrictive tier since the four-tier system was announced in August. Marin County remains in the "Red" tier after moving there last week.
Newsom hinted that a statewide curfew is being assessed, but that's not being announced just yet. He pointed to two states that already have curfews, including alcohol-related curfews, Massachusetts and Virginia.
"The Blueprint is working the way it was designed to work," Newsom said. "All we are announcing here today is the 40 counties moving backwards, and not waiting an extra day to make an announcement."
Ghaly noted that as case numbers are rising around the state — with a seven-day average case-positivity rate of 5% statewide — officials can now fairly accurate predict how many of today's new cases will require hospitalization in two to three weeks: about 12%.
"We can look at today's case numbers and predict the impact on the state's healthcare delivery system," Ghaly said.
Newsom pointed to the rapid rise in case numbers and the positivity rate nationwide — which is now at over 9% — and said that while California's numbers may be increasing less dramatically, the increase itself is still cause for grave concern.
"While we have fared better compared to the national average, we don't compare ourselves to the average," Newsom said. "We can do better than that."
There are now only two rural California counties in the least restrictive "Yellow" tier, Alpine and Mariposa counties; and only four counties in the "Orange" tier, Lassen, Calavares, Sierra, and Inyo counties.
Newsom also took a moment to again apologize for the lapse in judgment he showed in dining out at the French Laundry two Fridays ago in celebration of a friend's 50th birthday with a large group of unrelated individuals. He said that when he arrived and saw that the group at the table — numbering around a dozen — was larger than he expected, he should have "gotten up, gone back to my car, and gone home."
Newsom and Ghaly both strongly discouraged Californians from gathering in groups for Thanksgiving or other upcoming holidays, and suggested that even those people in "Orange" and "Yellow" counties consider keeping any indoor gatherings brief, with windows and doors open, and masks on.