California’s Regional Stay-at-Home Order Takes Effect December 5

December 04, 2020

Governor Gavin Newsom announced a regional stay-at-home order on December 3 in response to the unprecedented surge of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in California. The order, which takes effect December 5, is triggered for any designated region where the available adult intensive care unit bed capacity drops below 15%. Once that occurs, the region will have 24 hours to implement additional restrictions to stem the rate of COVID-19 cases.

The California regional stay-at-home order also prohibits private gatherings of any size with members of other households and closes certain sector operations with exceptions. Certain outdoor activities, such as many forms of exercise, continue to be permitted. These changes and restrictions are in addition to those outlined in the limited stay-at-home order issued on November 19 that requires counties in the widespread risk (purple) tier to stop nonessential activities between 10:00 pm and 5:00 am.

Once triggered, the order will remain in effect for that region for a minimum of three weeks. After the three-week period, the order may be lifted only when intensive care unit (ICU) bed availability reaches or exceeds 15%. Otherwise, the order will remain in effect.

See current ICU capacity for the five regions >

If the order is lifted in a region, the counties within the region again will be categorized under the Blueprint for a Safer Economy tier system. While no regions had triggered the order at the time of Governor Newsom’s announcement, he stated that he expects many to reach that point within days.


The five designated regions and the counties in each region are as follows:

  • Northern California: Del Norte, Glenn, Humboldt, Lake, Lassen, Mendocino, Modoc, Shasta, Siskiyou, Tehama, and Trinity
  • Bay Area: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, and Sonoma
  • Greater Sacramento: Alpine, Amador, Butte, Colusa, El Dorado, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, Sierra, Sutter, Yolo, and Yuba
  • San Joaquin Valley: Calaveras, Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, San Benito, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Tulare, and Tuolumne
  • Southern California: Imperial, Inyo, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura

The governor estimates the Bay Area region will fall below 15% ICU capacity in mid- to late December. The other four regions are projected to fall below 15% ICU capacity in early December.


Under the regional stay-at-home order, the following must close:

  • Indoor and outdoor playgrounds
  • Indoor recreational facilities
  • Hair salons and barbershops
  • Personal care services
  • Museums, zoos, and aquariums
  • Movie theaters
  • Wineries
  • Bars, breweries, and distilleries
  • Family entertainment centers
  • Cardrooms and satellite wagering
  • Limited services
  • Live audience sports
  • Amusement parks

Certain types of businesses that may remain open and operate on a limited basis include the following:

  • Outdoor recreational facilities (restricted to outdoor operations without any food, drink, or alcohol sales and no overnight camping stays)
  • Retail and shopping centers (indoor operations limited to 20% capacity; no eating or drinking in stores; metered entry; special hours should be instituted for seniors and others with chronic conditions or compromised immune systems)
  • Hotels and lodging (open only for critical infrastructure support)
  • Restaurants (only for takeout, pickup, or delivery)
  • Offices (remote only except for critical infrastructure sectors when remote working is not possible)
  • Places of worship and political expression (only outdoor services)
  • Entertainment production including professional sports (without live audiences; testing protocols and bubbles are encouraged)

The following sectors may remain open with modifications when a remote option is not possible:

  • Critical infrastructure
  • Schools
  • Nonurgent medical and dental care
  • Childcare and pre-K

In addition, all nonessential travel will be suspended when a region is under the order. Governor Newsom reminded California residents to wear masks when outside their residences and when participating in the permitted activities. Social distancing also remains mandatory.


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If you have any questions or would like more information on the issues discussed in this LawFlash, please contact any of the following Morgan Lewis lawyers:

Los Angeles
Kathryn T. McGuigan

Orange County
Daryl Landy
Carrie Gonell

Silicon Valley
Michael D. Schlemmer