Rapid rise in cases: Most of California now pushed back to purple tier

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday said the number of coronavirus cases in California has doubled in the last 10 days, the "fastest increase yet."

Because of this, he said he was putting on the "emergency brake" and ordering most of the state to move back multiple tiers. In fact, most of California was in the most restrictive tier of purple on Monday. That brake will curb reopening plans and put almost all of the state back under the strictest set of rules that halt indoor worship and force most indoor business to close or operate at a fraction of their capacity and keep most schools closed.

Newsom said he was even contemplating the idea of imposing a statewide curfew for some industries, like forcing the shutdown of businesses at certain times. He said he's studying what other countries, including Saudi Arabia, have implemented as he tries to figure out whether a curfew would be a good idea. 

As of Monday, Newsom said 41 counties, or 94 percent of the state, were now pushed back to this tier, compared to 13 that were in the purple at the same time last week. 

"You can see the purple, all up and down the state," Newsom said. 

These counties must make urgent changes in a 24-hour period. Usually, this information comes out on Tuesday, but officials said the restructuring of the tiers couldn't wait another day.

In the Bay Area, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, Napa, Alameda and Solano counties will slide back to the purple tier, while San Mateo, Marin and San Francisco counties move to the slightly less-restrictive red tier. 

There was no Bay Area county in the yellow tier, a status that San Francisco had held for weeks. 

Every Southern California county is now in the most restrictive purple tier, including Los Angeles County, which likely won't feel much of a difference as the county has remained in purple throughout the color-coding system created during the pandemic. 

Purple means that the virus rates and "widespread" and many non-essential indoor business operations must be closed. The red tier means that the cases are "substantial." For example, in purple, restaurants, gyms and church must be held outdoors only.

More than 11 million cases have been recorded nationwide as the virus surges almost everywhere. While California accounts for more than 1 million cases — the second-highest number in the U.S. — it is the nation’s most populous state with 40 million residents and ranks 40th in cases per capita.

Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said that knowing the data, and acting on it, by wearing masks, reducing interactions with people and closing down businesses can keep transmissions lower so as not to flood the hospital system. The people getting infected now, Ghaly said, could be showing up in the hospitals within the next two weeks. 

With this in mind, Ghaly reiterated a travel advisory, not a mandate, for those considering visiting relatives for Thanksgiving. If possible, he said, stay local. 

And if you live in a purple county, Ghaly and Newsom are asking that people not gather indoors with other households. High-risk people should avoid all social gatherings. 

"COVID likes the indoors," Ghaly said. 

Newsom also took time to apologize for staying at a birthday party at the French Laundry recently instead of just selling hello and going home. He said he's gone out three times during the pandemic, and he was wrong to have publicly attended this gathering. 

"I need to apologize to you," Newsom said. "I need to preach and practice. I shouldn't have been there."

Despite the sobering statistics, Newsom tried to put a positive spin on the unwelcome data.

He noted a vaccine could be coming soon, as evidenced by news reported by Moderna and Pfizer, California has more personal protective gear now, he said, and there is a quicker testing turnaround, than when the virus first broke out in the spring. 

This story was reported in Oakland, Calif. The Associated Press contributed to this report.