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40 million Californians could face new stay-at-home order

California’s quarantined governor is considering placing nearly all of the state’s 40 million residents under a tough stay-at-home order amid fears that a staggering coronavirus surge could swamp the hospital system within weeks.

California reported more than 20,000 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, shattering the state’s previous one-day record. A record 8,500 people are in the hospital, including more than 2,000 in the intensive care unit, leaving the state with fewer than 2,000 available intensive care unit beds.

Gov. Gavin Newsom — who is staying at home after three of his children were exposed to the virus — warned this week that he would take “drastic action” if the numbers didn’t improve. That could be similar to his mid-March lockdown that closed many businesses and barred people from leaving home except for essential tasks such as getting groceries.

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

Los Angeles County, the nation’s most populous with 10 million residents, also has imposed tighter stay-at-home restrictions and a three-week ban on in-person restaurant dining because of what county health director Barbara Ferrer called “terrifying increases in numbers.”

On Wednesday night, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti issued a city order that spoke in apocalyptic tones as it ordered people to remain in their homes.

L.A. “is now close to a devastating tipping point” that could overwhelm the hospital system, “in turn risking needless suffering and death,” the mayor’s order said.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 19: A pedestrian walks past a shuttered movie theater, with the message 'Stay Safe and Healthy' displayed on the marquee, on March 19, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a statewid

The order also bars gatherings of people outside of immediate households with some exceptions and requires arriving travelers from outside the state to fill out an online form. However, it allows retail businesses to remain open for in-person shopping subject to a county curfew already in place.

Garcetti also urged the Police Department and city attorney to enforce the order, which carries misdemeanor penalties.

Other local governments are imposing their own drastic measures. In Santa Ana, a city of more than 300,000 in Southern California’s Orange County, the City Council voted to authorize a mandatory face mask rule and for the police to enforce it.

Overall, California has reported more than 1.2 million COVID-19 cases and more than 19,300 deaths. The state reported 20,759 new cases on Wednesday, surpassing the previous high of 18,350 set just last week.

Public health officials have said the current figures don’t include the COVID-19 infections likely to arise from Thanksgiving holiday travel and gatherings that ignored social distancing precautions.

Those cases probably will start showing up in hospitals around Christmas, said Brad Pollock, associate dean for public health sciences at the University of California, Davis School of Medicine.

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Associated Press reporters Brian Melley in Los Angeles and Amy Taxin in Orange County contributed to this story.

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