Eight Killed By Employee In California Rail Yard Mass Shooting

Emergency responders. gather at the scene of a shooting where nine people were reported dead including the shooter on May 26, 2021 at the San Jose Railyard in San Jose, California.
Emergency responders gather at the scene of a shooting where nine people were reported dead including the shooter on May 26, 2021 at the San Jose Railyard in San Jose, California. AMY OSBORNE / AFP

 

An employee shot dead at least eight people at a rail yard in California on Wednesday, police said, in the latest mass shooting to hit the United States.

The male suspect also died and several others suffered major injuries in the incident at the public transit maintenance yard in San Jose, just south of San Francisco.

Bomb squads were deployed after reports of explosive devices within the compound, and were trying to “clear out every room and every crevice” of the building, Russell Davis, a Santa Clara County Sheriff’s deputy, told journalists.

“There are eight victims that are pronounced deceased at this point and there is one suspect that’s pronounced deceased,” said Davis, adding those numbers could rise.

“The suspect is a VTA employee,” he added, referring to the local Valley Transportation Authority.

Police had rushed to investigate multiple early morning 911 calls reporting gunshots. No immediate details were provided on whether the shooter was killed by police or took his own life, or about the type of weapon he used.

“Our hearts go out to the victims and their families,” White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.

“What’s clear, as the president has said, is that we are suffering from an epidemic of gun violence in this country,” she added, renewing calls for Congress to pass long-awaited gun control reforms.

‘Horrific’

Dozens of patrol cars and fire engines as well as FBI officials lined the streets near the rail yard in San Jose, a Silicon Valley tech hub of almost a million people.

Local officials said the shooting — which was initially reported before 7:00 am local time (1400 GMT) — had taken place at a union meeting, with at least 80 staff on site at the time.

Several people were receiving medical treatment, said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.

“Our hearts are pained for the families of those we have lost in this horrific shooting,” he tweeted.

The incident took place in a VTA yard that is used to store and maintain trains.

“Our thoughts and love go out to the VTA family, the organization and what they have had to go through,” VTA board of directors chairman Glenn Hendricks told reporters.

“I could not be more proud of the VTA organization. This is a horrible tragedy that occurred.”

The VTA tweeted that its employees had been evacuated.

US ‘epidemic’ of gun violence

The United States has a long and painful history of deadly gun violence, in the form of a steady daily toll of shootings as well as high-profile mass killings that have targeted schools, work places and shopping centers.

Homicides, mostly gun-driven, have surged in the US over the past year.

Mass shootings have occurred in recent months at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis, an office building in California, a grocery store in Colorado and at several spas in Atlanta.

In August 2019, another mass shooting in the Bay Area left two children and a 25-year-old man dead at a garlic festival in Gilroy, around 30 miles (almost 50 kilometers) south of San Jose.

President Joe Biden last month branded US gun violence an “epidemic” and an “international embarrassment.”

There were more than 43,000 gun-related deaths in the United States last year, including suicides, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

AFP

California Governor To Face Recall Election As Petition Hits Goal

(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 09, 2021 California Governor Gavin Newsom delivers the State of the State address at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. 
Patrick T. FALLON / AFP

 

A Republican-backed petition to recall California’s governor has achieved its goal of forcing a special election, which is set to be held later this year, officials said Monday.

The vote on Democratic governor Gavin Newsom’s tenure will be only the second-ever held in California, after the 2003 election that brought Arnold Schwarzenegger to power — and the fourth in the nation’s history.

As of Monday, “the requisite number of valid signatures has been reported to our office to initiate the recall of Governor Gavin Newsom,” said California’s Secretary of State Shirley Weber.

California, the most populous and wealthiest US state, allows voters to hold a referendum on replacing its governor if they can gather the signatures of 12 percent of previous voters.

The campaign to remove Newsom, fueled by his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, has gained more than 1.6 million verified signatures.

Unless significant numbers of those people rescind their signatures in the next 30 days, a vote will take place, likely by November.

Voters would be asked if Newsom should go, and who they want to replace him if he does.

Olympic gold medal-winning decathlete and Kardashian clan member Caitlyn Jenner is among those who have already thrown their hats into the ring.

In 2003, the election drew global attention as an eccentric field of 135 candidates ran including Schwarzenegger, a porn actress, and late Hustler publisher Larry Flynt.

But Newsom is considered unlikely to lose the recall vote, in a state that has swung even more heavily Democrat in the past two decades.

-AFP

California Ends Wide Lockdown As COVID-19 Hospital Strain Eases

File: (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP)

 

California lifted blanket “stay-at-home” orders across the US state Monday, paving the way for activities including outdoor dining to return even in worst-hit regions as the pandemic’s strain on hospitals begins to ease.

The western state has suffered one of the nation’s worst winter Covid spikes, with hospital intensive care units overwhelmed, ambulances backed up for hours at a time, and cases more than doubling since December to over three million.

The “stay-at-home” measures were ordered for some 20 million people in southern and central California since December 3, but public health director Tomas Aragon said the state was now “turning a critical corner.”

“California is slowly starting to emerge from the most dangerous surge of this pandemic yet, which is the light at the end of the tunnel we’ve been hoping for,” the state’s health secretary Mark Ghaly wrote in a statement.

“Seven weeks ago, our hospitals and front-line medical workers were stretched to their limits, but Californians heard the urgent message to stay home when possible and our surge after the December holidays did not overwhelm the health care system to the degree we had feared.”

The decision to end the sweeping regional measures — which included blanket bans on gatherings and “non-essential” activities, and closed outdoor dining and personal care businesses such as hair salons — is based on forecasts for intensive care unit capacities improving across all California regions.

Latest ICU capacity in southern California is currently at zero percent, but with daily new cases falling sharply, projections show more than 15 percent will be available within four weeks.

But previous restrictions based on individual county conditions will return, meaning bans will remain on dozens of activities including bars, indoor dining and live sport crowds in most counties.

Individual counties can choose to impose stricter rules than the state requires, meaning severely affected regions including Los Angeles may even opt to retain current restrictions.

Los Angeles officials did not immediately respond to an AFP request for comment.

California has recorded more than 3.06 million Covid-19 cases, including almost 36,000 deaths.

The state has delivered just under 1.8 million vaccine doses so far, having converted sites including Disneyland and the Dodger baseball stadium in Los Angeles into mass inoculation centers.

Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch Sold To US Billionaire For Over $22 million

This file photo shows an aerial view of singer Michael Jackson’s Neverland Valley Ranch on June 25, 2001, in Santa Ynez, CA. Michael Jackson’s former Neverland Ranch in California has sold to US billionaire Ron Burkle, his spokesman said December 24, reportedly at a steeply discounted price of around $22 million. PHOTO: JASON KIRK / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

 

Michael Jackson’s former Neverland Ranch in California has sold to US billionaire Ron Burkle, his spokesman said on Thursday, reportedly at a steeply discounted price of around $22 million.

The late “King of Pop” famously converted his sprawling, gated home into a fairytale-themed retreat — complete with toy railroad, Ferris wheel, and orangutans — and penned some of his top hits on the ranch.

But Neverland was also the infamous location where Jackson invited children to visit and sleepover, and where he was accused of molesting young boys. It was rebranded after Jackson’s 2009 death as Sycamore Valley Ranch.

READ ALSO: Zooey Deschanel Is Katy Perry In ‘Not The End Of The World’ Music Video

Burkle, a Montana-based businessman with investments ranging from supermarkets to the entertainment industry, purchased the ranch “as a land banking opportunity,” his spokesman told AFP.

The $22 million price tag reported by the Wall Street Journal — and confirmed to AFP as roughly accurate, by a source familiar with the deal — would mark a dramatic decline from the ranch’s $100 million asking price in 2015.

That lofty fee, dubbed “optimistic” by realtors even at the time, was slashed to $31 million last year, but the ranch still did not sell and was taken off the market.

Burkle was flying in the region recently to scout a neighboring property as a possible new branch of his Soho House private club network when he spotted the ranch and called its owner, according to the spokesman.

Jackson reportedly paid $19.5 million for the property in the 1980s.

Thomas Barrack Jr.’s Colony Capital investment firm purchased the ranch from the heavily indebted singer for $22.5 million the year before his death.

Burkle previously worked as an adviser for the singer on business matters, including resolving debts incurred by his lavish lifestyle in the years before his death.

The 2,700-acre (1,100-hectare) estate located 40 miles (65 kilometers) from Santa Barbara features a main house with six bedrooms along with three guest houses, a four-acre lake with a waterfall, tennis courts, several barns and animal shelter facilities.

Jackson’s ranch was raided in 2003 as part of a child molestation case against him and police at the time seized a large collection of pornography and images of nude children.

Jackson was acquitted in the case in 2005.

Last year, HBO documentary “Leaving Neverland” aired testimonies of two men who claim Jackson sexually abused them as children all over the ranch, including the attic, the master bedroom and the pool.

The Jackson estate — which is suing HBO for $100 million over a “posthumous character assassination” — denies all the allegations, as Jackson did in his lifetime.

AFP

California Seeks To Join Justice Department Antitrust Case Against Google

A file photo of a court gavel.
A file photo of a court gavel.

 

California will join the US government and 11 other states in bringing lawsuits against Google for abusing its market dominance, the state’s top prosecutor said Friday. 

“Google’s market dominance leaves consumers and small businesses with little choice when it comes to internet search engines,” Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement.

“By using exclusionary agreements to dominate the market, Google has stifled competition and rigged the advertising market.”

The US Justice Department and 11 states in October brought a civil case against Google for pursuing an illegal monopoly in its search functions and in its advertising research services.

Google, founded in 1998 and headquartered in California, has often been accused of abusing its power to exclude competitors.

It is the default search engine on many devices, and its Chrome web browser and mobile operating system Android dominate the market.

The US Justice Department also accuses it of forcing consumers and advertisers to use its services on Android devices on apps that cannot be deleted, such as Google Maps.

On Wednesday the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and prosecutors representing 48 states and territories also announced they had filed a complaint against Facebook for abusing its market dominance.

-AFP

California Fires Burn Record 2 Million Acres

In this photo released by the California National Guard on September 6, 2020, evacuess sit in a Chinook helicopter after being rescued from the Creek fire by the National Guard at the Sierra National Forest, about 45 miles (70 kilometers) northeast of Fresno, California. – Dozens of people were airlifted to safety on September 5, 2020 night after being trapped by a wildfire near a popular reservoir in northern California, officials said.Military helicopters have so far rescued 63 people from the Mammoth Pool Reservoir in the Sierra National Forest, about 45 miles (70 kilometers) northeast of Fresno, the Fresno Fire Department said on Twitter. (Photo by Handout / California National Guard / AFP) 

 

Wildfires in California have torched a record more than two million acres, the state fire department said Monday, as an uncontrolled blaze forced many residents to flee their homes.

The record was hit as the wildfire season still has roughly two months to go in the most populous US state and thousands of firefighters were battling flames during a scorching heatwave.

“In the past 33 years we have not seen a single year go over two million acres until this year,” said California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) spokeswoman Lynne Tolmachoff.

“This is definitely record-breaking and we have not even come close to the end of fire season yet.”

At least seven people have died as a result of this year’s fires and some 3,800 structures have been damaged or destroyed, according to Cal Fire figures.

The last time the number of acres burned got close to two million was in 2018, the same year as the devastating Camp Fire, when a little more than 1.9 million acres (769,000 hectares) went up in flames.

More than 14,100 firefighters were battling 24 different wildfires as of Monday afternoon, the fire department said in a tweet.

Among those blazes was the Creek Fire, which started on Friday in steep and rugged terrain, has so far spread to 78,790 acres and is zero percent contained, according to Cal Fire.

– Record-breaking heat –
The department said on Twitter that 976 personnel were battling the fire, which had continued to grow “under extreme conditions.”

Another rapidly growing fire, the Oak Fire, began Sunday in Mendocino county and has already grown to 1,000 acres.

Cal Fire said that 83 personnel were on hand to battle the blaze, which was zero percent contained.

Evacuation orders were in effect throughout southern California on Monday afternoon.

In northern California, more than 200 people were airlifted to safety over the weekend after a fast-moving wildfire trapped them near the Mammoth Pool Reservoir northeast of Fresno.

They were rescued by military helicopters, with dozens packed into a Chinook, video shared by the California National Guard showed.

Record temperatures over the three-day Labor Day weekend have aggravated already dangerous fire conditions and further stressed exhausted California firefighters.

California has been baking under scorching conditions with temperatures reaching a record 121 degrees Fahrenheit (49 Celsius) on Sunday in Woodland Hills, an all-time high for Los Angeles county, the National Weather Service said.

 

-AFP

California Fires Force Thousands To Flee As Governor Asks For Help

This video grab made on August 20, 2020 from the online broadcast of the Democratic National Convention, being held virtually amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, shows California Governor Gavin Newsom speaking from California during the last day of the convention. (Photo by – / DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION / AFP) 

 

Some of California’s largest-ever fires raged across the state Saturday, forcing tens of thousands from their homes as the governor called for international help to fight the blazes.

About 12,000 lightning strikes hit across the state in 72 hours, officials said, sparking the fires that left thick smoke blanketing large areas of central and northern California.

“We simply haven’t seen anything like this in many, many years,” California governor Gavin Newsom said on Friday.

The two largest blazes — dubbed the SCU Lightening Complex and the LNU Lightening Complex — had burned a total of just under 600,000 acres (240,000 hectares) and nearly 500 structures.

Wineries in the famed Napa and Sonoma regions, which are still reeling from blazes in recent years, are under threat by the SCU Complex — the 10th largest fire recorded.

Five deaths have been linked to the latest flare-ups, with four bodies recovered on Thursday, including three from a burned house in a rural area of Napa County.

Nature reserves were also ravaged. The Big Basin Redwoods State Park said in a statement that some of its historic buildings had been destroyed by flames.

The park, where giant redwood trees of well over 500 years old can be found, was “extensively damaged” it said.

Scorching temperatures and bone-dry conditions had spurred the flames, Cal Fire’s assistant deputy director Daniel Berlant said, though some progress at containing the fires had been made.

Temperatures were expected to cool slightly at the weekend, he added, but there was potential for more ignitions as early as Sunday evening.

“We could again experience a lightning storm so that has us remaining on high alert,” Berlant said.

About 119,000 people have been evacuated from the area, with many struggling to find shelter and hesitating to go to centers set up by authorities because of coronavirus risks.

Some in counties south of San Francisco opted to sleep in trailers along the Pacific Ocean as they fled nearby fires, while tourists in Santa Cruz County were urged to leave to free up accommodation for those evacuating their houses.

 ‘World’s best firefighters’

Fire crews, surveillance equipment and other firefighting hardware was coming in from several states including Oregon, New Mexico and Texas, to fight the fires Governor Newsom told reporters Friday.

But faced with the sheer scope of the disaster, he also asked for help from Canada and Australia, which he said had “the world’s best firefighters”.

Most of the fires are burning in unpopulated areas and statewide have blazed through some 771,000 acres — an area the size of Rhode Island state — he said.

Newsom also walked back criticism of President Donald Trump from Thursday.

Newsom had taken aim at the US leader in a taped speech to the Democratic National Convention, saying Trump had threatened to pull California’s funding for wildfire suppression for alleged poor forest management.

“There is not one phone call I have made to the president where he hasn’t quickly responded, and almost in every instance has responded favorably … as it related to these wildfires,” he said Friday.

“He may make statements publicly, but the working relationship privately has been a very effective one.”

In San Francisco, the smell of smoke lingered for the third consecutive day on Friday, with authorities urging residents to stay indoors.

“The many fire complexes burning around the Bay Area and Central Coast will keep skies hazy and smoky, at least in the short term,” the National Weather Service said.

Authorities in the Bay Area, which encompasses seven counties, issued an air quality alert in effect through Sunday.

 

 

 

-AFP

California Sues Uber, Lyft For Driver Wage Theft

In this file photo taken on April 16, 2020, a protestor displays a sign as Uber and Lyft drivers with Rideshare Drivers United and the Transport Workers Union of America prepare to conduct a caravan protest outside the California Labor Commissioners office amidst the coronavirus pandemic in Los Angeles, California. MARIO TAMA / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP
In this file photo taken on April 16, 2020, a protestor displays a sign as Uber and Lyft drivers with Rideshare Drivers United and the Transport Workers Union of America prepare to conduct a caravan protest outside the California Labor Commissioners office amidst the coronavirus pandemic in Los Angeles, California. MARIO TAMA / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

 

California has filed lawsuits against Uber and Lyft for alleged wage theft by misclassifying their drivers as independent contractors rather than employees, the Labor Commissioner’s Office said Wednesday.

Classifying their drivers as independent contractors “has deprived these workers of a host of legal protections in violation of California labor law,” the office said in a statement.

Under a California law that came into effect on January 1, workers are considered employees unless they are free from the company’s control and perform work outside its usual line of business.

The law challenges the business model of the San Francisco-based rideshare platforms and others which depend on workers taking on “gigs” as independent contractors.

California’s lawsuits seek to recover amounts owed to all Uber and Lyft drivers, including nearly 5,000 drivers who have filed claims for owed wages, the Labor Commissioner’s Office said.

“The Uber and business model rests on the misclassification of drivers as independent contractors,” California labor commissioner Lilia García-Brower said.

“This leaves workers without protections such as paid sick leave and reimbursement of drivers’ expenses, as well as overtime and minimum wages.”

Uber and Lyft each have around 100,000 drivers, the Labor Commissioner’s Office said.

Uber has long argued it is merely a platform linking self-employed drivers with riders.

“The vast majority of California drivers want to work independently, and we’ve already made significant changes to our app to ensure that remains the case under state law,” Uber spokesman Davis White said in a statement quoted by the Los Angeles Times.

“When 3 million Californians are without a job, our leaders should be focused on creating work, not trying to shut down an entire industry.”

Uber’s core ride-sharing operations have been hit hard by the global pandemic. The firm is due to announce its second-quarter results on Thursday.

Uber and Lyft have faced several legal challenges over their business models.

In May, California sued both firms alleging they violated a state law by classifying drivers as contractors instead of employees.

The new lawsuits go further by claiming recovery of unpaid wages, penalties and damages for drivers.

DoorDash, a food delivery platform, is also being sued by San Francisco for illegally classifying workers as contractors.

California’s state court is expected to rule Thursday on a preliminary injunction compelling Uber and Lyft to reclassify drivers as employees.

Uber, Lyft and DoorDash are backing a ballot initiative in November’s election which would classify rideshare drivers and other gig-economy workers as independent contractors.

“We believe the courts should let the voters decide,” Lyft spokeswoman Julie Wood told CNN Business.

Thousands Evacuated As Firefighters Battle To Contain California Inferno

 

california-fire
CHERRY VALLEY, CA – AUGUST 02: Smoke from the Apple Fire is seen behind a stars and stripes painted building in the community of Calimesa on August 2, 2020 near Cherry Valley, California. David McNew/Getty Images/AFP

 

More than 2,200 firefighters were battling a blaze that was burning out of control Monday in southern California, threatening thousands of people and homes east of Los Angeles.

The Apple Fire, which broke out Friday near the city of San Bernardino, has so far burnt more than 20,000 acres (8,000 hectares), sending up columns of smoke visible for miles.

Record low moisture in the vegetation, low humidity and high temperatures are fuelling the blaze, the United States Forest Service said.

At least 2,600 homes and nearly 7,800 people were evacuated. Officials said it was not clear when they might be able to return.

By early Monday about 2,260 firefighters backed by helicopters, water-dumping planes and trucks were working to put out the fire.

 

california-inferno
Inmate firefighters arrive at the scene of the Water fire, a new start about 20 miles from the Apple fire in Whitewater, California on August 2, 2020. JOSH EDELSON / AFP

 

Crews managed to contain five percent of the fire by Monday, after losing control of the blaze during Sunday afternoon.

There were no reports of casualties, and the only damage so far has been to two buildings and one home.

The edges of the fire are burning on rugged hills hard for crews to reach, authorities said.

Dense vegetation fueled the blaze near homes, said Fernando Herrera, fire chief in Riverside County, while hot and dry conditions Monday will help the flames keep alive.

Officials said the fire may have been set deliberately and a probe is underway.

AFP

California To Release Another 8,000 Prisoners Over COVID-19 Fears

A view of a new emergency care facility that was erected to treat inmates infected with COVID-19 at San Quentin State Prison on July 08, 2020 in San Quentin, California.  Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP
A view of a new emergency care facility that was erected to treat inmates infected with COVID-19 at San Quentin State Prison on July 08, 2020 in San Quentin, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP

 

California will release up to 8,000 more prisoners to reduce the spread of the coronavirus in its crowded jails, according to authorities in the US state, one of the hardest hit by the pandemic.

The inmates could be eligible for early release by the end of August — joining 10,000 prisoners already freed in similar initiatives since the start of the virus crisis, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said.

“These actions are taken to provide for the health and safety of the incarcerated population and staff,” the department’s secretary Ralph Diaz said in a statement Friday.

The announcement, welcomed by prison reform advocates, follows a surge in COVID-19 cases in one of California’s oldest prisons, San Quentin.

State Governor Gavin Newsom on Tuesday said the outbreak there was a “deep area of focus and concern” after more than 1,000 inmates tested positive.

The San Quentin facility this week made up half of the active coronavirus cases in jails throughout the state, which has a total prison population of about 113,000.

Friday’s statement said the prisoners to be freed, who include inmates from San Quentin, would be tested for COVID-19 within a week of their release.

California, the most populated US state with a population of around 40 million, has confirmed more than 300,000 coronavirus cases and over 6,800 deaths from the disease.

 

AFP

California Sues Uber and Lyft For Tagging Drivers ‘Contractors’

 

In this file photo taken on April 16, 2020, a protestor displays a sign as Uber and Lyft drivers with Rideshare Drivers United and the Transport Workers Union of America prepare to conduct a caravan protest outside the California Labor Commissioners office amidst the coronavirus pandemic in Los Angeles, California.  MARIO TAMA / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP
In this file photo taken on April 16, 2020, a protestor displays a sign as Uber and Lyft drivers with Rideshare Drivers United and the Transport Workers Union of America prepare to conduct a caravan protest outside the California Labor Commissioners office amidst the coronavirus pandemic in Los Angeles, California. MARIO TAMA / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

 

California on Tuesday sued rideshare operators Uber and Lyft for “misclassifying” drivers as contractors instead of employees in violation of a state law.

The suit, joined by the state’s large municipalities, seeks to require the companies to compensate drivers and pay penalties that could total in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

“California has ground rules with rights and protections for workers and their employers,” attorney general Xavier Becerra said in a release.

“We intend to make sure that Uber and Lyft play by the rules.”

The suit will test a law that took effect in California this year.

The cities of San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego joined the state in the complaint.

Officials said the classification requirements would not prevent the ride-hailing operators to offer flexible work arrangements to drivers.

“There is no legal reason why Uber and Lyft can’t have a vast pool of employees who decide for themselves when and where they work — exactly as drivers do now,” San Francisco city attorney Dennis Herrera said in a release.

“These companies simply don’t want to do it. Uber and Lyft are selling a lie. They are lying to the public and lying to their drivers.”

Ride-hailing giant Uber and delivery company Postmates in December challenged the new law that calls for gig-economy freelancers to be considered employees as unconstitutional.

The legislation, known as Assembly Bill 5, means that — under certain conditions — independent contractors are classified as employees to be covered under minimum wage and benefit rules.

This would include drivers for Uber, Lyft, Postmates and other internet platforms that use apps to enable people with cars to provide rides or make deliveries to those willing to pay for such services.

Uber was adamant last year that it would oppose any change of status for its drivers, which would add to its costs.

Uber and its American rival Lyft have each put aside 30 million dollars to organize a referendum, allowed under Californian law, to replace the legislation with a compromise on social rights.

Drivers are divided between those who want the same security as employees and those who want the flexibility of being able to choose the hours they work.

 

AFP

Coronavirus: California Governor Orders Residents To Stay Home

 

A woman walks wearing a mask to protect herself from the Coronavirus (Covid-19) in Los Angeles, California on March 19, 2020.  Apu GOMES / AFP
A woman walks wearing a mask to protect herself from the Coronavirus (Covid-19) in Los Angeles, California on March 19, 2020. Apu GOMES / AFP

 

All 40 million residents of California were Thursday ordered to stay at home indefinitely in a bid to battle the coronavirus pandemic in the nation’s most populous state.

The statewide directive, which Governor Gavin Newsom said goes into effect “this evening,” is the most dramatic containment measure yet by a US state.

“There is a recognition of our interdependence that requires of this moment that we direct a statewide order for people to stay at home,” he said.

No end date was set for the measure because the pandemic is a “dynamic situation,” said Newsom.

California has been among the worst hit by the virus, with at least 18 confirmed deaths so far, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.

Around 1,000 Californians have tested positive.

Although a mandatory executive order, the measure will likely not be enforced by police, Newsom said.

“People I think recognize the need to do more, and to meet this moment, and people will self-regulate their behavior,” he said.

Essential jobs and tasks such as grocery shopping would be exempt, he said.

“We want people to go to essential jobs — we want people to deal with their essentials in a thoughtful and judicious way.”

Gas stations, pharmacies, banks and laundry services all count as “critical infrastructure” and will remain open.

Restaurants can still provide take-out and delivery, and food banks will still operate.

In a letter to US President Donald Trump Wednesday requesting federal help, Newsom had warned that cases were doubling every four days in some parts of the state.

“We project that roughly 56 percent of our population — 25.5 million people — will be infected with the virus over an eight week period,” he wrote.

The new stay-at-home order is intended to reduce that figure, Newsom said Thursday.

“The point of the stay at home order is to make those numbers move — to bend that curve,” he said.

“That means that projection no longer becomes a reality because we changed our behavior.”

Under the projections, California would have a shortfall of around 10,000 hospital beds, Newsom said.

In addition to the isolation order, university dormitories, hotels and motels were being leased to provide more space.

Newsom’s announcement came moments after Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti had imposed a similar order on the state’s largest city.

That order prohibited gatherings in enclosed spaces of more than 10 people.

Several counties in the Bay Area, including San Francisco, had already imposed similar stay-at-home measures earlier in the week.

Newsom on Thursday also wrote a letter to Congress requesting “more than $1 billion in initial funding” for California to tackle the pandemic.

“If we’re to be criticized at this moment, let us be criticized for taking this moment seriously,” said Newsom.”

“That, is being criticized for going full force and meeting this virus head on.”

He added: “It’s time for all of us to recognize, as individuals and as a community, we need to do more.”

 

AFP