What would a new California-wide lockdown look like? UC expert weighs in

Liz Kreutz Image
ByLiz Kreutz KGO logo
Wednesday, December 2, 2020
Here's what California's new stay-at-home order could look like
As Gov. Newsom considers a new stay at home order, a UCSF doctor explains what that would look like. He says it won't be the same as the first one in the beginning of the pandemic.

SAN FRANCISCO -- As we wait to see how the Thanksgiving holiday impacted California's COVID-19 case rate, we heard Gov. Gavin Newsom this week say another stay-at-home order could be coming for the state's hardest hit counties.

"We are assessing this in real time over the next day or two," Newsom said during his briefing on Monday. "To make determinations of 'deep purple' moves in those purple tiered status, that is more equivalent, more in line with the stay at home order that folks are familiar with in the beginning of this year, with modifications."

Nothing has been announced yet, but the last time Newsom hinted about a major new purple tier restriction -- the curfew -- it happened a few days later.

So, what might a new stay at home order look like?

UC San Francisco epidemiologist professor Dr. George Rutherford shared his thoughts.

Asked what he imagines for this possible new stay-at-home order, Rutherford said he expects it would be slightly different than the one we saw at the beginning of the year.

"I think we've learned a lot of stuff, right?" Dr. Rutherford explained. "We've learned that fomite transmission has probably been overblown somewhat. We've learned that this is almost exclusively a respiratory disease."

Because of that, Rutherford said a stay-at-home order for purple-tiered counties would not necessarily need to include shutting down all outdoor dining and non-essential retail. Rather, counties may need to reduce their capacity.

"I think you could keep some retail shopping which, I think would help out a lot of small businesses," he suggested. "Outdoor dining with low density and everybody wearing masks, maybe."

He said another thing we've learned is that COVID-19 is not widely transmitted in children, thus any new restrictions may not need to include entirely shutting down schools.

"You could conceive of keeping preschools open and maybe continue to open elementary schools," he said. "So, I think those are some of the things we might do differently."

Something else to consider? Newsom mentioned "deep purple" counties, suggesting that not all purple counties would be subject to the same restrictions.

"He's basically creating a second tier, a 5th tier on top, which I think is not imprudent to do," Dr. Rutherford said. "I mean, we got to get this under control."

Rutherford said whether or not these restrictions would end before the Christmas holiday, or continue through it, would likely be dependent on how much the cases go up following Thanksgiving.

The silver lining? A vaccine is coming very soon.

"This is not indefinite. This has an end point to it," he said. "So, this is the time to be hunkering down."