In response to a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases, the state issued a month-long curfew for Sacramento County and 40 other counties placed in the most restrictive Purple Tier 1 status. This curfew started Nov. 21 and will be directed at non-essential work, activities and gatherings between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

The order will be in effect until Dec. 21, but it could be extended or revised, state officials said. This measure will impact an estimated 37 million Californians during the holiday season.

Acting State Health Officer Dr. Erica Pan on Nov. 19 issued this “limited” stay-at-home order a few days after the state placed 94% of California’s population in the Purple Tier 1 status.

“Every intervention to decrease mixing of households is critical during this unparalleled increase in (COVID-19) case rate rise of about 50% during the first week in November,” she wrote in her order.

Regarding the curfew’s timeframe, Pan wrote that late night or early morning activities are often non-essential social gatherings, and are likely to reduce people’s inhibitions and cause them to not practice social distancing or wear face coverings.

She noted that people could still leave their homes or lodging during the curfew as long as they don’t gather with those from other households. The curfew does not apply to the homeless, the public health officer wrote.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Nov. 19 that it was critical for Californians to slow the spread of COVID-19 and the increase in hospitalizations related to that virus.

“The virus is spreading at a pace we haven’t seen since the start of this pandemic, and the next several days and weeks will be critical to stop the surge,” he said in a press statement. “We are sounding the alarm.”

Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s health and human services secretary, said that the stay-at-home order that the state issued this spring had “flattened the curve” or reduced the spread of COVID-19 early in the pandemic.

“We may need to take more stringent actions if we are unable to flatten the curve quickly,” he said in a press statement. “Taking these hard, temporary actions now could help prevent future shutdowns.”

California had 1.04 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and 18,360 deaths since February, the California Department of Public Health reported.

Local enforcement decisions

When state officials announced the curfew on Nov. 19, they did not release details on how the order will be enforced.

According to a statement from Galt Police officials last week, Galt Police Department and the city of Galt will continue to utilize its established education approach when responding to potential violations of the Sacramento County Public Health Order.

“The city’s approach focuses on proactive outreach and education before enforcement,” the statement read. “This process has proven to be effective at both educating the community and helping keep the public safe. The Galt community is strongly encouraged to cooperate with the guidance set forth by the State of California. This process has proven to be effective at both educating the community and helping keep the public safe.”

Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones on Nov. 19 said that his agency would not enforce the curfew in their county. He also said they will not determine if people are following health or emergency orders related to mask mandates, maximum occupancy, and Thanksgiving or other social gatherings.

“Of course, if there is potential criminal behavior or the potential for impacts to public or personal safety, we will continue to respond appropriately,” Jones wrote in his press statement.

Sacramento County’s public health officials on Nov. 20 revised their public health order to include the state curfew.

They also stated that new state guidelines calls for people to wear face coverings whenever they’re outside. Exceptions include cases when they’re driving or working alone, they’re outdoors and can stay six feet away from others, they’re eating or drinking and can maintain social distancing, or if they have medical exemptions.

The Galt Herald Managing Editor Bonnie Rodriguez contributed to this story.