The most populous state in the US has been ordered to shelter in place amid the coronavirus pandemic. California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday issued an order directing the state's 40 million residents not to leave their homes unless for an essential reason, the AP reports. "This is a moment we need to make tough decisions. We need to recognize reality," Newsom said. The order takes effect at midnight, and has no set end date. Various cities and counties in the state, starting with the Bay Area, had already issued their own similar orders. Earlier Thursday, Newsom asked President Trump to send the US Navy's Mercy Hospital Ship to the port of Los Angeles for use through Sept. 1, arguing that with infection rates doubling every four days in some regions, 56% of the state population could get the virus over the next eight weeks.
But, his spokesperson later clarified, that number does not take into account the mitigation efforts currently underway. Prior to issuing the statewide shelter-in-place, Newsom had already directed bars, gyms, and other types of businesses to close their doors. Under the new order, any business not deemed essential is ordered to close. Restaurants will still be able to offer takeout and delivery, and people will be able to leave their homes for essential needs including food, medical supplies, or to get exercise outdoors, but social distancing of six feet must be observed while doing so. Newsom said he is mobilizing 500 National Guard troops to assist with food distribution, but said they are only being used for humanitarian reasons. "I don’t believe the people of California need to be told through law enforcement that it's appropriate just to home isolate." NBC News notes California appears to be the first state to issue a statewide order such as this. (Read more coronavirus stories.)