Calif. Gov. Newsom orders shutdown of churches, gyms and protests as COVID-19 surges

California Gov. Gavin Newsom
California Gov. Gavin Newsom | Facebook/Gavin Newsom

As new coronavirus cases continue to surge, churches, protests, fitness centers and businesses in several industries in 30 California counties will have to shut down again unless they can operate outside or through pick-up services, the office of Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday.

“NEW: As #COVID19 cases and hospitalizations continue to rise, 30 counties will now be required to CLOSE INDOOR OPERATIONS for: -Fitness Centers -Places of Worship -Offices for Non-Critical Sectors -Personal Care Services -Hair Salons and Barbershops –Malls,” Newsom announced on Twitter.

The affected counties are: Colusa, Contra Costa, Fresno, Glenn, Imperial, Kings, Los Angeles, Madera, Marin, Merced, Monterey, Napa, Orange, Placer, Riverside, Sacramento, San Benito, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Joaquin, Santa Barbara, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tulare, Yolo, Yuba, and Ventura.

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These counties were marked for shutdown, state officials explained, because they have been on the County Monitoring List for three consecutive days. California's average daily new cases hit 8,211 over the past week and 23 people died due to virus-related complications in the past 24 hours, media reported.

“California is monitoring COVID-19 closely in each local community and keeping the public informed. We’re teaming up with counties to fight it with every tool we have: current local data, testing, contact tracing, infection control, emergency supplies, containment measures, and more,” California officials said. “Counties should be ready to restore limitations if outbreaks increase. The State Public Health Officer may take action if needed.”

All counties will also have to close indoor operations such as: dine-in restaurants, wineries and tasting rooms, movie theaters, family entertainment centers, zoos and museums and cardrooms.

Bars, brewpubs, breweries, and pubs must also close all operations both indoor and outdoor statewide, unless they are offering sit-down, outdoor dine-in meals while alcohol can only be sold in the same transaction as a meal, officials said.

California, which was the first state to order all residents to stay home to slow the spread of the coronavirus, started reopening after Newsom announced on May 18 that state health officials would relax the criteria for counties that wanted to reopen their economies faster as long as they met public health guidelines, The New York Times reported.

Newsom relented just under two weeks after a federal judge ruled that he had the right to ban churches from assembling during the coronavirus pandemic in the interest of public health. Cross Culture Christian Center in Lodi had sought a temporary restraining order against the move.

Liberty Baptist Church in Newport Beach, California, which is in Orange County, announced in a statement on social media Monday that despite Newsom’s new shutdown orders, they will still find a way to gather on Sunday.

“We are aware of the governor's shutdown orders today regarding churches. We WILL be gathering in some form or fashion this Sunday. We will not close down like we did before,” the church said in a statement posted on social media.

“However, we will seek to be wise and prudent as our decisions impact hundreds of lives spiritually, physically, emotionally, etc. So there may be some adjustments made. We will be praying and planning over the next day or two for how best to proceed in our context. Please pray for our leadership and our church family during this time. Satan would love to use this to discourage and divide the family of God. God is more than able to use this to further the Gospel in greater ways,” the church added.

The church’s Lead Pastor Ryan Thompson is expected to provide more details to congregants about how they will proceed on Wednesday.

Nick Bradley, pastor of First Baptist Church of Clovis, told FOX 26 News that he was not surprised by Newsom’s order and said it’s one of the reasons why he has kept his services outdoors.

"It didn't surprise me as much. I kind of anticipated that, once things started spiking again. It's a natural consequence," Bradley said. "Indoors seemed to increase the spread. That's why we made the decision early on to not move indoors," said Bradley, whose church also broadcasts worship services online. "So we just kept everything outside."

And his church, said Bradley, is slowly adapting to the new normal.

"Everyone is appreciating at least the leadership's attempt to do what we can with what we have," he said. "Our church even has stickers that say, 'I'm a waver' 'I'm a fist-bumper' or 'I'm a hugger' for families, and we respect each other's gatherings."

Chase Barnhart, executive pastor at LifeBridge Church in Northwest Fresno, said he had anticipated a rollback of the reopening too.

"I kind of expected it because COVID-19 is getting bigger, there are more cases, and things are getting tighter,” Barnhart told Fox 26.

He explained that his church held three Sunday services and they worked hard to keep people safe while continuing to offer online services which he called “a blessing.”

"We saw our online services blow up. We saw thousands of people attending online, so we installed a permanent online campus because of that," he said. "Through all of this, Jesus is going to provide new opportunities."

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