California 'not afraid' to order more closures if COVID-19 surge continues, health official warns

Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly explains when California will use the "dimmer switch" to close more businesses .
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced several waves of mandatory closings over the past month as California continues to fight a surge in coronavirus cases.

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It's a tactic the state isn't afraid to pursue even further if necessary, said Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly Tuesday.

"We will always have that finger on the dimmer switch. We are not afraid to use it," said Ghaly.

Gov. Newsom has used the "dimmer switch" metaphor to describe the state's plan to toggle back reopening in areas where we're seeing increased COVID-19 transmission.

"We continue to watch the data very closely, and if we need to do even more with our strategies of closing, you know, changing and modifying further and maybe even considering other closures, we will do that," said Ghaly.

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"But I think it is really kind of reaching this equilibrium," he added.

While the state is still seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, it's happening at a pace that's less concerning than just a few weeks ago. But if things don't get better soon, Californians should expect a return to stricter stay-at-home measures and restrictions.

"I will underscore, if the data trends turn to such a place where we aren't confident we will get there, there will be potential for further dimming in parts of the state," Ghaly reiterated.

As of Monday, 33 of California's 58 counties are on the state's COVID-19 watch list. That's 91% of the population, or approximately 36 million people. Counties on the watch list are no longer allowed to open indoor restaurant dining, bars, indoor salons or schools.

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"If you reside in these counties, we only enforce and underscore the urgency of modifying our activities to help us mitigate the spread," Gov. Newsom said.

On Monday, Gov. Newsom announced new guidelines for hair salons and other beauty services, allowing them to move some services outdoors.

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The governor said new guidelines have been in the works for some time, but it was more complex than other outdoor business operations because of the use of chemicals in some beauty services.

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