California rolls back reopening, steps up enforcement as coronavirus surges

People wait in line to be tested for Covid-19 at a drive-in and walk-up testing site in Los Angeles,July 1, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SACRAMENTO, California (REUTERS) - California dramatically rolled back efforts to reopen its economy on Wednesday (July 1), banning indoor restaurant dining in much of the state, closing bars and stepping up enforcement of the restrictions as Covid-19 infections surge.

Indoor activities at restaurants, movie theatres, museums and other facilities will be banned in 19 counties where 70 per cent of the population lives for at least three weeks, Governor Gavin Newsom said.

All bars and brew pubs, whether indoor or out, must also close in affected counties, which include heavily populated Los Angeles and Orange Counties, as well as the state capital of Sacramento.

The state is also stepping up enforcement of the rules, setting up strike forces made up of regulatory agencies and the California Highway Patrol, Newsom said at a press briefing on Wednesday.

The agencies will have the power to issue citations and review the licenses of businesses that do not comply, said Mark Ghilarducci, director of the Office of Emergency Services.

Newsom also asked counties to enforce the rules, saying the state's recently passed budget allowed him to withhold funds from those that do not comply.

Hospitalisations and deaths from Covid-19 have been soaring in the most populous US state, starting around the Memorial Day weekend and continuing to rise.

Over the past 24 hours, 110 people have died in California, the governor said.

Nearly half of the available intensive care beds in the state are being used by Covid patients, and the rate at which residents are testing positive for the virus has risen to 6 per cent over the past 14 days, up from 4.6 per cent over the prior 14 days, he said.

Florida, Texas and other states are also seeing a surge in cases and hospitalisations from Covid-19.

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