Pictured: Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of California Health and Human Services, on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. Screenshot from live video. 

by Kimberly Rivers


On Thursday, Nov. 19, Dr. Mark Ghaly, California health secretary, announced a stay-at-home order for counties in the purple tier that limits non-essential activities between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., starting on Saturday, Nov. 21 at 10 p.m.,  and lasting through Dec. 21. 

The order was clearly designed to apply to the upcoming holiday season and will impact those planning to still gather with non-household members in the evening hours. 

“The spirit of the order is,” for gatherings at homes, “we want it to end by 10,” said Ghaly. 

The order applies to non-essential businesses including restaurants and bars and means those sectors must close all operations that cause people to remain and gather. Takeout meals may still take place. 

Ghaly said the action, called a “limited stay-at-home order,”  is an effort to avoid more harsher restrictions and to try and stem the surge the state is seeing in new coronavirus cases to protect those at highest risk of getting sick. He said the intention of this order is to prevent longer indoor gatherings between larger numbers of people, but he emphasized that people can go to the store after 10 p.m. or walk their dog. The spirit of the order is to restrict gatherings. 

On Thursday evening, Ventura County Public Health reported 149 new cases. 

“Gatherings should not occur between 10 [p.m.] and 5 a.m.,” Ghaly said. In terms of how the state can enforce such an order if folks choose to gather at home in violation of it, he said “We’ve depended on a partnership with all of you…this is about us deciding to do something that, sure, it’s an inconvenience,” but it’s something residents can do to get “rates down.”  He did mention but not fully explain other enforcement tools the state has. 

The state’s “limited stay-at-home order” requires that all non-household gatherings and other activities that take place outside the home do not occur between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. The order does not apply to those who are unhoused nor to the operation, maintenance or usage of critical infrastructure pursuant to state law. 

While the order allows for people to leave their homes as needed to go to the store, return from work or other activities that do not involve “interaction with (or otherwise gather with) any number of persons from any other household,” it does mean that some “nonessential business sectors,” such as restaurants and bars, are “requested to stop all operations” (indoor and outdoor) at 10 p.m.

Ghaly said that while so far, the state’s tiered blueprint approach “has really helped us move in a slow and stringent way forward, COVID can go from zero to 60 very quickly… Now much more virus is in our community, [it] is higher than it was,” as a reason why this action is needed now.  

As for what scientific support exists to support the order, he explained that longer gatherings and visits when folks might “let their guard down”  tend to occur in the evening and  nighttime hours. Ghaly cited the “disportionate” impact of the pandemic on “Black and Brown communities” across the state and the need to protect residents of those communities. 

“We want to do all we can to support and protect those populations,” said Ghaly. “And frankly, this is gong to help us stop the surge faster and help us avoid more severe actions and restrictions.”

Ghaly spoke about California being the first state to impose a stay-at-home order in March, which he said prevented the state from seeing the “radical rise” in cases that other states experienced at that time. He said this is needed now to again help “flatten the curve” and avoid the high case rates strain on local hospitals and health care workers. 

Some things being emphasized today are a result of evolving information that was not available when the pandemic first took hold. These include the importance of wearing a mask, the duration of interactions with others and moving those interactions outdoors or to places where outside air can be brought inside. 

Ghaly also emphasized the role that asymptomatic people who are carrying the virus have on transmission rates, clarifying that about 12 percent of people on average who are testing positive today will be hospitalized within the next two to three weeks.

View the full stay at home order online HERE. 

The full video announcements from Dr. Ghaly is online HERE. 

The report in Spanish begins at about 27 minutes in Dr. Ghaly’s video announcement.