Newsom issues regional stay-at-home order: Here's what it means

As he had forewarned earlier in the week, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday issued a limited coronavirus crackdown throughout the Golden State, much of which is teeming with new coronavirus cases.

The stay-at-home mandate covers regions where the ICU capacity drops below 15%., Newsom said.

The order would then last three weeks before officials would reassess whether to lift the mandate, looking at hospital caseloads about a month out from the shutdown, state health officials said. 

"This is the most challenging time since the beginning of the pandemic," Newsom said. "Lives are in the balance. Lives will be lost unless we do more than we've ever done."

Newsom divided the state into five regions: Northern California, Greater Sacramento, Bay Area, San Joaquin Valley and Southern California. 

READ: Regional stay-at-home order 

All the regions will hit that ICU capacity early this month, Newsom said, and the Bay Area is expected to reach that capacity in a few weeks in mid-to-late December. 

Bars, wineries, hair salons and barbershops will have to close during this three-week period, Newsom said, adding he recognized how difficult this would be for these businesses. Nonessential travel will be banned in the designated regions, too. 

"Consider canceling your travel plans now," Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said, regarding both air and car travel. "We're asking people to be at home and not mix and move." 

However, some things can stay open. That includes schools with waivers, retail stories at 20 percent capacity and restaurants for takeout and delivery. Also, critical infrastructure will be allowed to remain open.

Newsom stressed that there are still plenty of activities allowed during this "temporary moment." Going to parks and beaches, taking a bike ride and an outdoor fitness class, going skiing and fishing and practicing yoga, are all still OK.  

How people will travel to ski resorts was not specifically spelled out as nonessential travel is not allowed under the new order. 

Newsom already has imposed restrictions — including a nighttime curfew — on 51 of the state’s 58 counties comprising nearly the entire state population.

The number of COVID-19 cases reported each day in California has been setting records, with the average daily case rate over the last week topping 14,000.

The number of cases began spiking after Thanksgiving, which Newsom described as a "surge after a surge." 

Despite the regional shutdown, Newsom promised that the end might soon be near with the coming of a vaccine by several companies. They will start to arrive in California in the next few weeks, through March. 

The first round of 327,000 doses from Pfizer will go to acute care, psychiatric car, nursing homes and correctional facility hospitals. The second round will go to public health workers, and the third round will go to dental staff, lab workers and specialty care clinics. 

"Help is on the way," Newsom said. "Light is at the end of the tunnel." 

This story was reported from Oakland, Calif.