What to Know About California’s Covid Restrictions


Good morning.

In California, we’ve spent the past several days learning new details about the ways in which some of our leaders have flouted the very same guidelines they’ve promoted to help keep everyone safe.

That French Laundry dinner Gov. Gavin Newsom apologized for attending? Photos obtained by Fox 11 show it was not as outdoors as you might have thought. As CalMatters reported, two high-powered doctors’ association executives were also among the guests.

Oh, and reporters are still trying to figure out which of your elected representatives decided to go to Hawaii for a lavish policy summit, just days after California announced advisories against traveling out of state, because many of them won’t own up to being there.

Nevertheless, we are now exactly one week away from Thanksgiving — a holiday that experts have warned is almost custom tailored to facilitate the spread of the coronavirus.

Both the state and local governments have been announcing new restrictions or reinstating previous ones aimed at getting the surge under control.

Here’s what you need to know about restrictions now:

More than 94 percent of the state’s population lives in the 41 counties currently under the state’s purple tier of restrictions. What does that mean?

It means that many businesses that may have been operating indoors, such as restaurants, movie theaters and museums, must either move everything outdoors or close down.

Hair salons and barber shops can be open indoors with modifications. Shopping malls, stores and swap meets can be open at 25 percent capacity.

Indoor gatherings of any kind are banned and outdoor gatherings can only include people from up to three households.

[See a grid showing what’s open and what’s closed under each tier on the California Department of Public Health’s website.| Look up where your county falls here.]

All that said, individual counties may impose more stringent restrictions than the state mandates.

For instance, officials in Los Angeles County — which has struggled for months with stubbornly high case loads — have said that the virus is spreading to dangerous and unsustainable levels.

So, effective Friday, the county is requiring that restaurants operate at half capacity, even outdoors. Also, personal care businesses can’t accept walk-ins, and they must provide only services that don’t require customers to take their masks off.

As far as outdoor gatherings, which the state guidelines cap at simply three households, Los Angeles County is capping at 15 people.

And if things continue to get worse, officials say they will reimpose a stay-at-home order similar to the one the county implemented in March, which would require people to stay home except to go to essential businesses. (The threshold would be a five-day average of more than 4,000 new cases per day, or if there are more than 1,750 hospitalizations per day.)

San Francisco officials have also paused reopening plans without a state mandate.

[Track coronavirus case numbers and hospitalizations by California county.]

So is there a curfew?

Although earlier this week, Mr. Newsom said he and other state officials were looking at research into whether some kind of statewide curfew could be effective, there is no such curfew right now.

In Los Angeles, however, the county is requiring all restaurants, bar, wineries and nonessential stores to close from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Last week, New York officials announced a similar step, requiring bars and restaurants to close at 10 p.m.

When do we have to wear masks?

The state updated its mask mandate recently to make it slightly more expansive. But for the most part, if you’ve been following it already you won’t have to do anything different.

There are a few exceptions, but, basically, if you’re inside somewhere that’s not your home, and you’re not eating or drinking (which probably won’t be the case, given that indoor dining should be closed in most of the state), you should be wearing a mask.

If you’re outside, but you’re somewhere you may come within six feet of people, you should be wearing a mask. And if you’re in a car with someone who doesn’t live in your household, you should be wearing a mask.

(This article is part of the California Today newsletter. Sign up to get it delivered to your inbox.)

Read more:

  • A horrifying milestone: A quarter of a million people have died in the United States from Covid-19. [The New York Times]

  • Here’s what happened at the French Laundry dinner. [The New York Times]

  • Orange County is set to provide 11,000 free at-home Covid testing kits to residents, first to communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the virus, and then to more residents as the tests become available. [The Orange County Register]

  • In her annual State of the District address, San Diego Unified School District’s superintendent released a proposed education plan calling for significant federal coronavirus aid for schools. [The San Diego Union-Tribune]

  • San Francisco has rejected the Warriors’ ambitious plan to bring more than 9,000 fans to games in the upcoming N.B.A. season — at least for now. [The San Francisco Chronicle]

  • Newport Beach has canceled its famed annual Christmas boat parade to discourage people from gathering, although it was already set to be streamed online. [The Daily Pilot]


This year, your Thanksgiving will be different. But if you’re adapting your traditions, we’d love for you to share what that means.

Are you sending pies in the mail? Watching your cousins deep fry a turkey over FaceTime? And why are these traditions meaningful to you?

Please tell us here.


  • In an interview, Representative Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, credited President Trump with bringing turnout that helped get Republicans elected. [The New York Times]

See more California election results, including in House races. [The New York Times]

  • The University of California, Berkeley, stripped the names of professors who were outspoken about their racist views from two buildings, LeConte Hall and Barrows Hall, following years of advocacy. [The Daily Californian]

Earlier this year, the name “Boalt Hall” was removed from the Berkeley Law School for a similar reason. [The New York Times]

  • An 800-mile firebreak once known as the “Great Wall of California” stands as an early lesson that wildfire prevention across the state’s vast forests is complicated, expensive and, often, unsuccessful. [The San Francisco Chronicle]

  • Octavia Butler has been rediscovered as a kind of prophet of our time. Her writing and her career were shaped by the libraries of Los Angeles. Take a tour of her city. [The Los Angeles Times]


California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com. Were you forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here and read every edition online here.

Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, graduated from U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.





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