On the morning of March 15, as Italy became the epicenter of the global coronavirus pandemic, a half dozen high-ranking California health officials held an emergency conference call to discuss efforts to contain the spread of the virus in the San Francisco Bay Area, the AP reports. The tight-knit group of Bay Area doctors organized the call to discuss a consistent policy on public gatherings for the region's 7 million people, which then had fewer than 280 cases and just three deaths. Soon, though, the conversation focused on the emergency on their hands and how stay-at-home orders could help. That three-hour call and the bold decisions to come out of it were central to helping California avoid the kind of devastation the virus wrought in parts of Europe and New York City, experts say.
"It was obviously spreading like wildfire under our noses and literally every minute we did not take aggressive action was going to mean more and more death," says Scott Morrow, a county health director. A day later, the San Francisco Bay Area became the first place in the nation to order residents to stay home. At least 20 other California counties adopted the Bay Area order within hours. Two days later, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered all 40 million Californians to stay home unless they had essential jobs. As of Sunday morning, the state had confirmed more than 30,800 cases and nearly 1,150 deaths—but the slowing rate of infection, at 73 per 100,000 residents as of Friday, and deaths, is one one of the reasons Newsom says the state can contemplate reopening businesses.
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