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Californians are banned from singing or chanting during religious services

  • As California continues to battle a spike in coronavirus cases, the state's Department of Public Health has banned people from singing or chanting in places of worship.
  • California was praised for its successful early response, but the state has recently experienced record-highs in new cases.
  • On May 25, the state started to allow churches to reopen with safety guidelines. This week, it updated its guidelines to advise against singing.
  • There is an increased likelihood of transmission from droplets contaminated with the coronavirus during singing and chanting, the department said.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

As California continues to battle a surge of coronavirus cases, the state is allowing places of worship to stay open — but those who attend religious services are banned from singing or chanting, according to state guidelines that were updated on Wednesday.

Convening in a congregational setting carried a "relatively higher risk" for COVID-19 transmission, according to the Department of Public Health.

"In particular, activities such as singing and chanting negate the risk reduction achieved through six feet of physical distancing," the guidelines released Wednesday said. "Places of worship must therefore discontinue singing and chanting activities and limit indoor attendance to 25% of building capacity or a maximum of 100 attendees, whichever is lower."

California was initially praised for its successful early response to the coronavirus. As the virus started to spread in the state, places of worship were closed. After improved infection rates, the state announced on May 25 that congregations could reopen if they met safety guidelines.

At the time, those guidelines included setting parameters around singing and group recitations, including requiring choir members to wear face masks at all times. The state also recommended the activities be held outside, or that clergy consider eliminating them altogether.

In the last two weeks; however, there has been a resurgence in coronavirus infections.

The state reached a record number of new cases in a single day — more than 7,000 — on June 23, according to government data. As of Friday, there have been 6,265 deaths in the state, according to Johns Hopkins University.

In response to this uptick, the Department of Public Health revised its guidance for places of worship. The move came the same day California reversed its plan to reopen businesses by calling on over a dozen counties to halt indoor dining; and close movie theaters, museums, and other venues, the Sacramento Bee reported.

The Capital Christian Center, which can seat up to 4,000 people, told the Sacramento Bee that it would follow the new guidelines.

"We recognize that singing is a challenge," Jason Batt, the church's chief operating officer, told the newspaper.

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California Coronavirus Update: Governor Gavin Newsom Promises “Tougher” Regulations, “Enforcement” Announcement Coming Tomorrow

Black Lives Matter protesters used an alarm and loudspeaker to interrupt California Governor Gavin Newsom’s coronavirus press conference on Tuesday.

The chaos was appropriate as Newsom revealed the grim state of the pandemic in California. Accordingly, the governor said the state would get “tougher” in its approach. “We’ll be making a more formal and detailed announcement on enforcement tomorrow,” he promised.

“We’ll be looking at the health orders in relation to indoor vs. outdoor activities. The 4th of July,” said Newsom. “More broadly, beyond the Forth of July.”

In reference to family gatherings, particularly over the Fourth of July weekend, Newsom said, “We’re gonna need to do more about that…being a little bit more aggressive in regards to guidelines.”

“It’s family gatherings,” said Newsom, “where people let down their guard.” The governor was most concerned about people taking off masks, giving family members hugs and kisses. “Then all of a sudden, you see a spread,” he said.

Watch Governor Newsom’s press conference, interruptions included, below.

Asked about mask order enforcement the governor said, “We’ll be doing more to focus on enforcement in this state. Primarily local enforcement. We have conditioned $2.5 billion in our state budget on [local officials] applying the spirit and the letter of the law. If local officials are unwilling to enforce and being dismissive, we will condition those funds on compliance.”

Newsom said the state’s levers for compliance would include “regulatory oversight, code oversight. OSHA is now very active in this space. Alcohol beverage is active in this space.”

Trying to sound an upbeat note toward the end of his appearance Newsom said, “We bent the curve in the state of California once. We will bend the curve again. We will crush this pandemic. But we’ll have to be tougher.”

That’s an optimistic stance given that the state saw a near-record number of newly-diagnosed COVID-19 cases — 6,367 — in the past 24 hours. That’s a 2.9 percent jump over Monday’s number. It comes less than a week after the state set a record with 7,149 new infections last Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the state reported that California now has 222,917 confirmed cases of COVID-19, resulting in 5,980 deaths. The number of COVID-related deaths increased by 77, that’s up 0.7 percent. The number of COVID-19 diagnostic test results in California reached a total of 4,167,139 an increase of 105,447 tests. That’s up from about 85,000 tests the day before, but virtually the same as Monday’s dily number. The rate of positive tests over the last 14 days is 5.6 percent. California’s hospitalizations due to COVID-19 increased by 301 patients, a 6.3 percent jump. Thirty percent of all ICU beds in the state were occupied by coronavirus patients.

“In particular concern is the number of hospitalizations and the number of ICU beds,” said Newsom

The number COVID patients in ICU beds grew 4.3 percent overnight and saw a 37 percent increase of a two-week period.

The governor said the positivity rate of new tests was 4.4 percent two weeks ago. Now, over the past 7 days, it’s 5.9 percent.

Newsom said on Monday that he would likely be using the “dimmer switch” to toggle back reopening measures in more hard-hit counties. He said there were seven counties, including Los Angeles, that likely would need to “reinstitute community measures.”

Testifying before Congress on Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci said, “We are now having 40-plus thousand new cases a day. I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around. And so I am very concerned,”

After rolling back coronavirus reopening measures twice in three days, Newsom said on Monday that the positivity rate in the state has, in seven days, risen from 4.4 percent to 5.5 percent, even as the state upped its testing to over 100,000 a day. Newsom revealed that, in the past seven days, positivity looks even worse at 5.9 percent.

On Friday, Newsom had Imperial County roll back its lifting of the stay-at-home order. On Monday he hinted a that that measure might be in the future for more counties in the state.

Newsom ordered seven California counties close bars and nightspots on Sunday. Those counties include Los Angeles, Fresno, Kern, San Joaquin, Tulare, Kings, Ventura and Imperial. He said the counties have been on a watch list from between 3 and 13 days due to increasing COVID numbers. At 14 days, the governor said the state will enforce remediation measures.

On Monday, Newsom added Solano, Merced, Orange and Glenn Counties to that watch list. The counties of concern to state officials now account for 72 percent of the state’s population, he said.

The cumulative positivity rate of tests in Los Angeles County increased from 8 percent to 9 percent as of Monday, while the 7-day average of the daily positivity rate has increased to 8.8%. That’s well outside one key state guideline for reopening, which requires that the 7-day average of the daily positivity rate be less than 8 percent.

Also on Monday, the Los Angeles County Health Department closed area beaches over the Forth of July weekend. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti later announced the prohibition of fireworks displays and nixed gatherings of people who do not live in the sqme household.

On Tuesday the State of New York, which was once the epicenter of the outbreak in the U.S., restricted travel from several states, including California. As numbers spike in other states, the COVID-19 numbers in New York are down dramatically.

With roughly 2.6 million infections reported in the United States, at least 124,000 Americans have died of Covid-19 since the pandemic began.

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California Shuts Bars in L.A., Other Counties, as Virus Cases Climb

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Some California residents hoping to celebrate Independence Day in a bar will now have to change their plans.

Bars are required to shut in seven counties — including Los Angeles — and they’re recommended to close in eight others, including Sacramento and Santa Barbara, following a surge in coronavirus cases, according to an order by Governor Gavin Newsom on Sunday.

The number of new cases climbed by 4,810 yesterday in the Golden State, almost eight times the additions reported by New York, which has the highest number of infections in the country. While the latest data from California is down from a few record-breaking days in the past week, they’re still significantly higher than in May, when the daily case count was barely exceeding 3,000.

“COVID-19 is still circulating in California, and in some parts of the state, growing stronger,” Newsom said in a statement. “That’s why it is critical we take this step.”

Los Angeles County remains the epicenter of the outbreak in California, reporting an additional 2,542 cases, more than half of the new infections statewide.

“While it’s disappointing to take a step back on our economic recovery journey, it’s critical that we protect the health of our residents and protect the capacity in our health-care system,” Barbara Ferrer, the county’s director public health, said in a statement.

Earlier this week, saloons in Texas were also ordered to close, and Florida suspended alcohol consumption at bars. The two states have become new hot spots as cases there continue to surge. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said the surge was in part due to young people socializing in indoor environment with air-conditioning as the weather gets warmer.

Alcohol consumption reduces inhibition and impairs judgment, leading to reduced compliance with mask-wearing and social distancing measures. Bars are also generally louder environments where people raise their voice, with greater projection of droplets, the guidance by California warned.

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Coronavirus Explodes at California’s San Quentin State Prison

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California’s San Quentin State Prison is seeing an explosion of coronavirus cases after a botched transfer from another facility, impacting hundreds of incarcerated residents and scores of correctional officers in a potential public-health threat to the San Francisco Bay Area.

Some 816 people incarcerated at San Quentin tested positive for Covid-19 as of 1:15 p.m. on Sunday, according to data from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. That means more than 1 in 5 of the prison’s total population of 3,507 has been infected, and it’s not clear if everyone has been tested. State data also show that 89 staff members at San Quentin have Covid-19. A spokeswoman for San Quentin did not respond to an email seeking comment on the rise in cases Sunday.

Prisons are a prime example of the type of “congregate” environments where Covid-19 can spread rapidly. Social distancing is impossible in small cells with bunkmates, not to mention in shared restrooms, showers and common areas.

Meanwhile, more than 600 people attended a virtual town hall via Zoom and Facebook Live on Saturday to discuss the growing crisis. The town hall, led by three formerly incarcerated people who served time at San Quentin, urged Governor Gavin Newsom to reduce the prison population via early or earned release and stop the practice of transfers.

“Covid does not contain itself within prison walls,” Adnan Khan, the co-founder and executive director of Re:Store Justice, which was founded in 2017 inside San Quentin, said during the town hall.

Built in 1852, San Quentin is California’s oldest correctional facility. The walled prison is made up of four large cell blocks and includes the state’s Death Row.

San Quentin had zero known Covid-19 cases through May, but infections jumped after state prison officials transferred 121 people from the California Institution for Men in Chino on May 30. The practice of transferring inmates from one facility to another within the state has been widely condemned for spreading the virus.

Plans to transfer additional people from San Quentin to another prison in Southern California have been halted, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said on its website Saturday, after additional testing for Covid-19 among those slated for transfer revealed two positive cases.

Statewide, there are 2,112 incarcerated persons with active cases of Covid-19 and 391 active cases among correctional employees as of Saturday. At least 21 incarcerated people have died.

San Quentin is located across the bay from San Francisco in wealthy Marin County, where prices of single family homes can top $1 million but economic disparity is widespread.

Latinos make up just 16% of the county’s population but account for 75% of the county’s confirmed coronavirus cases. The county’s total cumulative case and hospitalization counts don’t include the San Quentin State prison cases. At least four San Quentin inmates have been treated at local Marin County hospitals, according to the county.

California was the first to enact a statewide stay-at-home order in mid-March and has been slow to reopen. But on Sunday, Governor Newsom ordered bars in seven counties, including Fresno, Imperial and Los Angeles, to close again amid an uptick in cases and hospitalizations.

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2 Dead After Shooting At Business Center in California

Red Bluff, Calif (AP) — Two people were killed and at least four people were in fair condition at a hospital Saturday after a man drove into a distribution center and started shooting at people.

The two deceased people and the four injured ones were taken to St. Elizabeth Community Hospital in Red Bluff, spokeswoman Allison Hendrickson told The Associated Press. She declined to provide more details.

The shooting by a man with “AR-type weapon” started about 3:30 p.m. at the Walmart distribution center south of Red Bluff, emergency dispatchers told the Record-Searchlight newspaper.

There also was a fire at the site, and the suspect appears to have rammed a vehicle into the building, dispatchers said. There were about 200 workers inside the facility, some of whom locked themselves in a room , employees at the center told the KHSL TV station.

The suspect was described as being in a white vehicle that had wedged into the building, the Sacramento Bee reported. The shooter was in the middle of the parking lot, dispatchers said.

The suspect had been shot in the chest by about 3:45 p.m., dispatchers told the newspaper.

Scott Thammakhanty, an employee at the facility’s receiving center, said he heard the shooter fire from a semi-automatic weapon.

“It went on and on — I don’t even know how many times he fired,” Thammakhanty said. “I just know it was a lot.”

Thammakhanty and others started running for their lives, and he saw people lying on the ground as he went, he said.

Thammakhanty told the newspaper that he didn’t know his identity.

Fellow employee, Franklin Lister, 51, told the New York Times he had just started work when a coworker ran down the hallway shouting: “Active gunfire! Active shooter!”

Dispatchers told the Record-Searchlight that at least one woman had been shot. A man had also reported his leg getting run over when the shooter rammed a vehicle into the store, but the man wasn’t sure whether he’d been shot, dispatchers said.

Walmart spokesman Scott Pope told the Record-Searchlight that the company is “aware of the situation” and working with law enforcement.

“We don’t have any additional information to share at this time,” Pope said.

Red Bluff is a city of about 14,000 people about 131 miles (210 kilometers) north of Sacramento, California.

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California Orders Residents To Wear Face Masks In Public

California State Governor Gavin Newsom has issued an order urging all residents to wear face coverings while in public, citing the prevailing risks for COVID-19 exposure and infection.

The order was issued on the growing concern of the pandemic, as the number of Californians leaving their homes for work and other needs is increasing. The rule is exempted for certain individuals including kids under two years and those with medical conditions, among others.

Until now, the health officials in the state had only recommended that Californians wear cloth face coverings, which was not mandatory.

In a statement, the Governor and State Public Health Officer & Director Sonia Angell said people must wear face coverings when they are in the high-risk situations. These include indoor public space, healthcare services settings, public transportation, workplace, etc.

The order comes as the confirmed coronavirus cases have increased sharply in the state, reaching 167, 233 as of June 18, with 5, 355 deaths.

Newsom noted that the state has limited the spread of the virus and associated hospitalizations and deaths through collective actions, yet there are increased risks.

According to the officials, people who are infected but are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic play an important part in community spread, and the use of face coverings by everyone can limit the release of infected droplets.

The officials added that the new order for face masks does not substitute for existing guidance about social distancing and handwashing.

Amid the intensifying spread of coronavirus, Governments and major corporates across the world have made it mandatory for people to wear masks, which are scientifically proven to reduce disease transmission.

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Disneyland Delays Planned Reopening Until “Approval From Government Officials”

Disneyland in Anaheim has delayed its planned reopening while it awaits approval from California officials. The decision comes as the state is seeing a marked spike in new cases of coronavirus.

Read the company’s statement below.

Disney had announced a July 17 reopening for Disneyland and Disney California Adventure but noted that the dates were subject to state and local government approvals. Walt Disney World in Orlando remains slated to open its gates on July 11, but Florida also is among the states seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Here is Disney’s release issued at 5:30 p.m. PT Wednesday:

We previously announced a proposed phased reopening of our theme parks for July 17, pending government approvals. We developed enhanced health and safety protocols for both cast and guests at Shanghai Disney Resort, Hong Kong Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort that have been approved, allowing us to reopen in a responsible manner and bring our cast members back to work.

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The State of California has now indicated that it will not issue theme park reopening guidelines until sometime after July 4. Given the time required for us to bring thousands of cast members back to work and restart our business, we have no choice but to delay the reopening of our theme parks and resort hotels until we receive approval from government officials. Once we have a clearer understanding of when guidelines will be released, we expect to be able to communicate a reopening date.

Our Downtown Disney District will reopen on July 9 as previously announced with health and safety protocols in place for our cast members and guests. The opening of our Downtown Disney District has been previously approved in line with restaurant and retail openings throughout California. The Master Services Union, which represents our retail cast at this location, previously signed an agreement for members to return to work.

In order to reopen our theme parks we need to negotiate agreements with our unions to return employees to work. We have had positive discussions and are very pleased to have signed agreements from 20 union affiliates, including the Master Services Council, which represents more than 11,000 of our cast members. The signed agreement details plans that include enhanced safety protocols that will allow us to responsibly reopen, and get thousands of our cast members back to work.

We thank our cast and guests for their patience during this unprecedented time while we await approval from government officials.

MORE TO COME…

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DOJ Blasted for Probing Carmakers a Day After Angry Trump Tweets

House Democrats criticized the Justice Department Wednesday after one of its career attorneys testified an antitrust investigation was launched into automakers that agreed to meet California’s strict tailpipe emissions rules the day after President Donald Trump fumed about the arrangement on Twitter.

John Elias, a trial attorney in the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, told the House Judiciary Committee that he reported the circumstances around the investigation to DOJ’s inspector general as an example of how competition laws have been misused under Attorney General William Barr.

“It is unacceptable that he would order the Antitrust Division to initiate pre-textual investigations into industries he and the president do not like simply because they do not like them,” House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler said of Barr in his opening remarks.

The department has said it had a legitimate legal basis to review whether the automakers had violated antitrust laws and that political interference played no role in the probe, which was dropped by early February.

The memo opening the automaker investigation was dated Aug. 22, 2019, one day after Trump issued a series of tweets blasting executives for refusing to back the administration’s August 2018 plan that called for capping efficiency requirements after 2020 and revoking California’s authority to regulate vehicle greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change.

One month earlier, Ford Motor Co., Honda Motor Co., BMW AG and Volkswagen AG announced they had agreed to voluntarily meet tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions standards set by California clean-air officials.

“The day after the tweets, Antitrust Division political leadership instructed staff to initiate an investigation,” Elias said during the hearing. He said paperwork for the probe was hurried and that staff had only partially reviewed public information relevant to the deal, but the probe proceeded anyway.

“The career staff who examined it saw some very obvious defenses” for the California emissions pact, Elias said. “You really have to twist things to get around those, so it did not appear to be in good faith.”

In a statement late Tuesday responding to Elias’s written testimony, Justice Department spokeswoman Brianna Herlihy said the department strongly disagreed with Elias’s claim that it acted inappropriately in any antitrust investigation and that he didn’t present any evidence to support his claims.

The department opened the probe to review whether the carmakers had agreed as a group to join to California’s tougher standards, which “would have given rise to a potential antitrust violation,” she said. The probe was closed after the department found each company had agreed individually to meet the California rules, she said.

In prepared testimony, Elias described what he said was how the department opened and ultimately concluded the automaker probe.

He said enforcement staff at the department “expressed concerns about the legal and factual basis for the investigation” and asked for a delay before Makan Delrahim, the department official in charge of antitrust probes, informed automakers that the department was examining the emissions arrangement with California.

California Democrat Zoe Lofgren said the importance of the matter goes beyond arcane regulatory policy because vehicle pollution is a key contributor to high rates of asthma in large parts of the state.

“It looked to me that the department announced these investigations in really a bad faith manner after the president publicly threatened these companies for disagreeing with his own policies,” she said at the hearing Wednesday.

The automakers in October told the department that each had agreed to the emissions pact with California independent from one another, not as a group, Elias said in his written testimony. The department then subpoenaed each company and on Nov. 8 received a “sworn affirmation” of the companies’ earlier statements. That undercut the probe’s premise on the pact being an agreement between competitors, Elias said.

“At that point, a colleague with a key role in the investigation expressed optimism to me that the investigation would close by Thanksgiving,” he wrote.

Instead, he said the matter remained open after the agency’s political leadership told staff to examine a California announcement that the state would only purchase vehicles from carmakers that comply with its tougher emissions rules. The department told automakers in February that the probe was closed.

“I reported these matters to the IG because they were evidence that our nation’s antitrust laws were being misused,” Elias said.

— With assistance by David McLaughlin

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California Coronavirus Update: Governor Gavin Newsom Reports New Infections Rose Over 40 Percent In Past 24 Hours

On Wednesday, before California Governor Gavin Newsom addressed the coronavirus crisis in the state, he took some time to deliver details about a 5.8 earthquake in the Owens Valley.

It was an appropriate preface, as Newsom went on to announce the state had seen another record number of newly-diagnosed COVID-19 cases. The 7,100-plus new infections. That’s a jump of 2,000 infections in just 24 hours.

“We cannot continue to do what we have done over the past weeks,” said Newsom. He said some people got cabin fever, some people just let down their guard.”

“I’m not naive,” said Newsom. People are mixing. We are spreading this virus. It is our behaviors that are leading to these numbers.”

The state also had a record number of tests, 90,000-plus. But, said the governor, “those numbers can be misleading.”

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New York, New Jersey And Connecticut Announce 14-Day Quarantine For Visitors From States With High COVID-19 Spread

A more important number, he maintained, is the positivity rate of those tested. Newsom recalled that it was 40.8 percent at the peak of the latest curve. He said that total, on the 14-day chart, is 5.6 percent. But that is up from 5.1 and, looking at the chart Newsom displayed of the most recent days’ data, headed much higher.

“We are seeing hospitalizations beginning to increase,” said Newsom citing another key indicator. The state has seen “a 29 percent increase in hospitalizations over a 14-day period,” he said. As with hospitalizations, Newsom indicated that the last few days have been even more acute than the long term tend line.

Newsom said, though, that “We have been preparing to reopen the economy…Preparing for an increase in community spread…hospitalizations.”

As a result the state has increased its “surge capacity.” Califonia now has an extra 6,000 surge capacity hospital beds, accoring to the governor, and 1,500 alternative beds that can also be activated.

Currently, only eight percent of total hospital bed capacity are being occupied, not including the alternative care sites. That’s a lot of extra capacity. But, warned Newsom, Monday it was “about 7 percent.”

More concerning “ICU numbers are increasing just over 18 percent over the past 14 days.” 20 percent to 30 percent in the past few days. 1,268 beds occupied out of 4,034.

The California state health department on Tuesday reported what was then a record number of new coronavirus cases. That daily tally of 5,019 was a big jump from the previous record of 4,230, which was recorded on Monday. Hospitalizations, a confirmation that these are new infections vs. the result of increased testing, also rose to a record of 3,868 total.

Hospitalization totals broke records on both Saturday and Sunday, with 3,702 COVID-19 patients reported in hospital beds. The previous high before the weekend came nearly two months earlier on April 29. That was 3,497 new hospitalizations.

California was one of seven states that, on Tuesday, reported the highest number of hospitalizations since the pandemic began, according to the Washington Post. The others included Texas, Arizona, Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

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