Southern California could enter a regional stay-at-home order as soon as Sunday night, Dec. 5, after state officials announced late Friday that only 13.1% of adult intensive care beds were available in the area.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, in an announcement Thursday, said the state would enact such orders by region when available ICU bed availability fell to 15% or lower. The new state order goes into effect at 12:59 p.m. Saturday. So if Southern California remains below that threshold in Saturday’s data, the regionwide order would go into effect at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday.

The Southern California region, under the state order, includes Imperial, Inyo, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

Officials and residents across the Southland braced for the possibility of another shutdown late Friday and early Saturday.

In Los Angeles County, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said his city — which maintains its own health department and manages coronavirus response separately from the county — was already at work.

“This is a health emergency and we are reaching dangerous levels of ICU capacity,” Garcia said. “We are already working to put in place the Governor’s stay at home order. Folks need to take this hospital crisis seriously.”

Garcia said on Thursday, when Newsom announced the new state order, that he supported the governor’s action and that he believes the regional strategy “is absolutely the right approach.”

“This virus does not stop at city or county borders,” he said.

But in Riverside County, Sheriff Chad Bianco had a different view.

Bianco said in a video message on Friday that he took issue with the possibility that the state would withhold funding from counties that did not enforce the regional stay-at-home order.

“Ironically, it wasn’t that long ago our same governor loudly and publicly argued how wrong it was for the president of the United States to withhold federal funding from states not complying with federal laws,” Bianco said. “Keeping money and support from our hospitals who are struggling with normal seasonal increases in patients, coupled with COVID-19 patients is irresponsible. It appears part of the new goal is to shift attention away from his and others’ personal behavior with a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do attitude by turning public opinion against California sheriffs.”

Bianco said the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department’s approach to the new orders would remain the same as it has throughout the pandemic so far.

“The Sheriff’s Department is asking and expecting Riverside County residents to act responsibly and do what hey can to protect themselves and their family from contracting the virus,” he said. “Wear your mask and practice social distancing.”

This story is developing and will be updated.

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By Arlene Huff

Arlene Huff is the founding member of Golden State Online. Before that She was a general assignment reporter. A native Californian, she graduated from the University of California with a degree in medical anthropology and global health. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

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