California, World's Fifth-Largest Economy, Is in Lockdown as Governor Orders Residents to Stay Home

Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom of California announced a mandatory lockdown for all Californians Thursday evening due to the coronavirus.

Newsom said that over the next eight weeks, 56 percent of Californians could come down with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. However, it was clarified that Newsom's estimation didn't take into account the efforts to slow the spread of the disease.

The order, which Newsom calls a "safer-at-home" order, is mandatory and will make the vast majority of the the state's almost 40 million residents stay self-isolated in their homes. Residents will be able to leave their homes for exercise and for essential needs.

All non-essential businesses will also close; grocery stores, pharmacies and banks, among others, will stay open. Some restaurants will also stay open, however, they will be delivery or take-out only. Before Newsom's order, a number of counties—including Los Angeles County—issued similar directives.

Newsom also said that the National Guard would help with the distribution of food, acting in a "purely humanitarian" manner. California will also partner with the social media platform NextDoor so citizens can check in with neighbors during the lockdown.

"This is a moment we need to make tough decisions," Newsom said. "We need to recognize reality."

The order comes into effect Thursday, until further notice. Violations of the order are punishable as a misdemeanor. The maximum punishment would be a fine of $1,000 or no more than six months in prison, but Newsom says he does not plan to have police enforce the order.

Gavin Newsom
California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a news conference at the California Department of Public Health on February 27, 2020 in Sacramento, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty

Newsom's move, designed to save lives and prevent a surge of patients from overwhelming the hospital system, will accelerate America's slide into recession by crushing the economy in its most populous state. If California were a sovereign state, it would be the world's fifth-largest economy behind Germany and ahead of India. California's economy is 50 percent larger than Italy's, so far the biggest economy to employ total lockdown as a strategy to contain the spread of coronavirus.

"While California has prudently built a sizable Rainy Day Fund over the past ten years, the economic effects of this emergency are certain to mean that the state and its 58 counties will struggle to maintain essential programs and services," Newsom wrote in a letter to the U.S. House and Senate Thursday, requesting $1 billion in support funds. He also warned that households could "fall into poverty" unless there's a "substantial economic intervention."

Wednesday, Newsom said that though California typically receives about 2,000 unemployment claims a day, that number has mushroomed to 80,000 requests on Tuesday alone, due to the coronavirus.

As of 6 p.m. Pacific Time, California has seen 675 confirmed cases of coronavirus, leading to 16 deaths in the state, according to the state of California. This puts California with the third-most confirmed cases in the United States, behind Washington state and New York. Washington state has 1,376 cases and 74 deaths as of 3 p.m. Pacific Time, according to the Washington Department of Health, while New York has over 5,000 cases with 24 deaths as of Thursday afternoon, according to the New York Times.

Newsweek reached out to the Governor's Office for comment.

US, COVID-19, coronavirus, US, map, March 18
This infographic from Statista shows the spread of confirmed COVID-19 cases across the U.S. as of March 18. Statista

This is a developing story and will be updated.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before; during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • If you feel unwell (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and call local health authorities in advance.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.