California authorities sent a cellphone text alert Tuesday to two major regions of the nation’s most populous state to tell millions that the coronavirus is spreading rapidly and asking them to stay home except for essential activities.

The noon blast to the state-designated 11-county Southern California region and 12-county San Joaquin Valley region was sent by the state Office of Emergency Services.

The text also urged people to wear masks and physically distance.

Both regions came under increased restrictions this week after the capacity of hospital intensive care units dropped below 15%. The restrictions will remain in effect for at least three weeks.

The regions will be eligible to emerge from the order on Dec. 28 if ICU capacity projections for the following month are above or equal to 15%, the emergency services office said.

Meanwhile, three counties northwest of Los Angeles are planning an attempt to separated themselves from the Southern California region.

Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties plan to seek approval to create a smaller Central Coast region if the tri-county ICU capacity exceeds 15% in the next three weeks, the counties said in a statement Monday.

At that point, the three counties will ask to be assessed on the tri-county ICU capacity and not overall Southern California region capacity.

“We believe it’s reasonable to have the Central Coast as one region instead of including our county with over half the state’s population in the current Southern California Region,” Ventura County Executive Officer Mike Powers said in a statement.

Last week, amid a huge surge of COVID-19 cases, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom divided the state into five regions to use intensive care unit capacity in each region as a trigger for widespread closures, setting a 15% threshold that occurred during the weekend.

The 11-county Southern California region includes Los Angeles County, where public health officials say the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has surpassed all-time highs every day since Dec. 1.

“We’re really distraught that we’re being lumped in with Southern California where they have more severe problems than we have,” Lynn Compton, chair of the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors, said in an interview.

In Los Angeles County, where gatherings are banned under public health orders, 158 people were arrested at an illegal house party Saturday, the Sheriff’s Department said.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva said last week that since March he focused on educating people about virus-related restrictions, but now will crack down on “super-spreader events.”

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By Kelley Wheeler

Kelley Wheeler is a Metro reporter covering political issues and general assignments. A second-generation journalist, worked with all major news outlet, she holds a vast expeirience. Kelley is a graduate of USC with degrees in journalism and English literature. She is a recipient of Yale’s Poynter Fellowship in Journalism.

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