Gov. Newsom Calls for Closure of All Bars in an Effort to Increase Social Distancing

Roberto Lopes works at Nick's Lighthouse in Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco on March 13, 2020. Like many service industry workers, he worries about the decline in revenue at the restaurant and what that means for his job. The restaurant manager said that there was about a 70 percent decrease in business. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Gov. Gavin Newsom called for all bars, wineries, nightclubs and brewpubs to close across the state, and urged seniors and people with chronic health conditions to isolate themselves at home in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus and flatten the curve.

“We require social distancing in these establishments," Newsom said at a news conference, using the phrase that's become part of everyday conversation about keeping away from other people to prevent the spread of the illness.

It comes as the governors in Illinois and Ohio shut down all bars and restaurants and officials elsewhere said they were considering similar restrictions.

In California, the new orders are "guidelines" that “we have the capacity to enforce if necessary," Newsom said.

The state has confirmed 335 cases of the virus and recorded its sixth death. Experts say the number of those infected may be much higher. 

On Saturday, state health officials urged movie theaters to keep attendance under 250 people and ask strangers to sit 6 feet apart. Gambling venues were told to limit 250 people per room and clean chips and slot machines more frequently, while theme parks and attractions were told to thin out crowds by staggering attendance.

Newsom also announced that California is working with Verily, the life sciences arm of Google parent company Alphabet, to launch a tool to help people find coronavirus testing. An online portal would help determine if they should be tested and would direct them to mobile testing units. The initial program is set to begin in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, which have both seen the number of positive cases increase in the past week.

“We hope this Verily model can scale and be made national,” Newsom said.

The state has increased the number of available hospital beds and will be reopening shuttered medical centers in the coming days.

By Monday, one-third of California's 6 million public school students will be out of their classrooms for one to five weeks, depending on the district, as schools look to limit the health risks. Some expanded spring break while others were taking a wait-and-see approach.

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There have been concerns that closing school cafeterias would deprive students of meals, especially those from poorer families. West Contra Costa Unified School District in the San Francisco Bay Area announced that any child under 18 will be able to pick up food at two high schools. The Elk Grove Unified School District created drive-thru zones outside 13 schools so that families can pick up food for their children.

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