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US most populous state California orders its nearly 40 million residents to stay home

Sacramento, the state capital of California since 1854. Photo: einfon.com. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

Pan Pacific Agency | COMMUICATION AGENCY FOR PACIFICA REGIONS

SACRAMENTO, Mar 20, 2020, CNN. The nation’s most populous state is ordering its nearly 40 million residents to stay home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order marks the first statewide mandatory restrictions issued in the United States to help combat the outbreak. It goes into effect Thursday at midnight and includes exemptions for essential services such as public safety and medical care, CNN reported.

Nineteen people have died and more than 900 have tested positive for coronavirus in California. The restrictions, which will remain in place until further notice, come a day after Newsom warned that more than half the state is projected to be infected with the virus in two months.

Essential services will be open

Under the order, essential services such as gas stations, pharmacies, grocery stores, farmers markets, food banks, convenience stores and delivery restaurants will remain open. So will banks, local government offices that provide services and law enforcement agencies.

Nonessential services such as dine-in restaurants, bars, gyms and convention centers will shut down.

Governor requests US Navy medical ship

Newsom’s order comes after he asked President Donald Trump to send a US Navy medical ship to provide more health care options for the state, warning that more than half of California’s population could get infected in two months.

“We project that roughly 56% of our state’s population — 25.5 million people — will be infected with the virus over an eight-week period,” he said in a Wednesday letter to Trump asking him to send the USNS Mercy Hospital Ship to the port of Los Angeles for use through September 1.

California has been helping people returning to the US from overseas and needs the San Diego-based ship to help “decompress” its health care system as infection rates skyrocket, Newsom wrote. He warned that infection rates are doubling every four days in some parts of the state.

Social distance is still required

Even with the order, California residents can participate in some activities as long as people maintain a social distance, he said.

“Go about the essential patterns of life, but do so by socially distancing themselves from others and do so using a common sense,” Newsom said. “Home isolation is not my preferred choice, but it is a necessary one. This is not a permanent state, it is a moment in time.”

The order will not be enforced by law enforcement, he added.

“I don’t believe the people of California need to be told through law enforcement that it’s appropriate just to home isolate, protect themselves,” Newsom said. “We are confident that the people of the state of California will abide by it and do the right thing.”

Before Newsom’s announcement, other counties in Los Angeles and the Bay Area had issued similar mandates.

CNN’s Jon Passantino contributed to this report.

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