California’s governor on Monday clamped new restrictions on businesses as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations soared, and the state’s two largest school districts, in Los Angeles and San Diego, said children would be made to stay home in August.
Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, ordered bars closed and restaurants, movie theaters, zoos and museums across the nation’s most populous state to cease indoor operations. Gyms, churches and hair salons must close in the 30 hardest-hit counties.
“It’s incumbent upon all of us to recognize soberly that COVID-19 is not going away any time soon, until there is a vaccine and/or an effective therapy,” Newsom said at a news briefing.
The governor called the move critical to stemming a surge in COVID-19 cases that have strained hospitals in several of California’s rural counties.
The public school districts for Los Angeles and San Diego, which instruct a combined 706,000 students and employ 88,000 people, said in a joint statement they would teach only online when school resumes in August, citing “vague and contradictory” science and government guidelines.
The districts said countries that have safely reopened schools have done so only after establishing declining infection rates and on-demand coronavirus testing.
“California has neither,” the statement said, adding, “The sky-rocketing infection rates of the past few weeks make it clear the pandemic is not under control.”
The union representing Los Angeles teachers applauded the strategy in a separate statement released shortly after the school shutdowns were announced.
“In the face of the alarming spike in COVID cases, the lack of necessary funding from the government to open schools safely and the outsized threat of death faced by working-class communities of color, there really is no other choice that doesn’t put thousands of lives at risk,” United Teachers Los Angeles said.
Brenda Del Hierro, who has two children in Los Angeles schools, said resuming traditional instruction was important but the hazards had to be considered. “For their social and emotional wellbeing they need to go back to school. But at the end of the day there is too much of a risk,” she said.