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California pulling 'emergency brake' to slow record surge of COVID cases

California is pulling the "emergency brake" and tightening restrictions for 94 percent of the state's residents amid a record-breaking increase in coronavirus cases. 

Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomMajority want their states to stay open amid coronavirus surge: poll Newsom, family quarantining after exposure to COVID-19 One of Gov. Newsom's children quarantines after potential COVID-19 exposure MORE (D) on Monday said 41 of the state's 58 counties will be put into the most restrictive "purple" tier because of widespread virus transmission, effective tomorrow. This means indoor dining, gyms, movie theaters and houses of worship will be closed. 

“We are sounding the alarm,” Newsom said in a statement.

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Those counties must make changes in the next 24 hours, Newsom said during a press briefing, rather than the three days allowed under the state's reopening blueprint. Counties will also be moved back after only one week of rising infection spread, rather than two.

Counties will be reassessed multiple times during the course of a week, and they will be unable to move forward until the numbers improve and the state deems it safe. Newsom said the state will no longer wait until each Tuesday to impose new restrictions on counties.

Daily cases have doubled in the state over the last 10 days, the fastest increase California has seen since the beginning of the pandemic. 

The state's positivity rate over the past seven days is 4.6 percent. While much lower than the national average, Newsom said that rate is far too high. Just two weeks ago, the state's positivity rate was 3.2 percent. 

If left unchecked, Newsom said the spread could quickly overwhelm the state's health care system and lead to "catastrophic outcomes." 

The state became the second in the nation last week to surpass 1 million cases of the virus. The U.S. has now recorded more than 11 million cases.

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California is also strengthening its face-covering guidance to require individuals to wear a mask whenever they are outside their home, with limited exceptions.

Newsom said the encouraging news from Moderna and Pfizer about the efficacy of their vaccine candidates means that time is of the essence to make sure case rates don't continue to rise.

"The bottom line is we are moving from a marathon to a sprint," Newsom said.