California’s Regional Stay-At-Home Order Was a Costly Failure
The numbers are in on California’s two-month regional stay-at-home order that banned outdoor dining, closed nail salons, and forbade people from socializing with others outside their household. By the state’s own estimates, the policy should be considered a costly failure.
The state’s second regional stay-at-home order was issued on December 3 by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom. It divided California into five new regions and then imposed a range of new restrictions on businesses and social activity whenever spare intensive care unit (ICU) capacity fell below 15 percent.
The order provoked extreme controversy. Businesses argued a second lockdown would bring about their doom. Law enforcement agencies across the state said they wouldn’t enforce it. Several judges ruled the ban on outdoor dining was unsupported by evidence that it would slow the spread of COVID-19.
Newsom, claiming that projections showed ICU capacity would be above 15 percent within a month, issued a surprise retraction of the order at the end of January. More cynical observers, including supporters of the order, argued the governor was bowing to political pressure.
One week after its end, the Los Angeles Times reports that state officials are estimating that the stay-at-home order prevented some 25,000 people from being hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide, with the outdoor dining ban, in particular, being singled out as one main reason why.
The Times notes, as do some of the experts it quotes, that it’s much too early to have real data on the efficacy of an outdoor dining ban, but the inherent nature of eating at a restaurant—where masking is impossible and social distancing difficult—means it must have made a difference.
“A lot of people said, ‘You’re closing this down, but there’s no proof.’ Well
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