California’s governor on Monday clamped new restrictions on businesses as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations soared, and the state’s two largest school districts, in Los Angeles and San Diego, said children would be made to stay home in August.
Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, ordered bars closed and restaurants, movie theaters, zoos and museums across the nation’s most populous state to cease indoor operations. Gyms, churches and hair salons must close in the 30 hardest-hit counties.
The governor called the move critical to stemming a surge in COVID-19 cases that have strained hospitals in several of California’s rural counties.
The public school districts for Los Angeles and San Diego, which instruct a combined 706,000 students and employ 88,000 people, said in a joint statement they would teach only online when school resumes in August, citing “vague and contradictory” science and government guidelines.
The districts said countries that have safely reopened schools have done so only after establishing declining infection rates and on-demand coronavirus testing.
The union representing Los Angeles teachers applauded the strategy in a separate statement released shortly after the school shutdowns were announced.
The decision to cancel in-person classes puts the districts at odds with U.S. President Donald Trump, who has said he might withhold federal funding or remove tax-exempt status from school systems that refuse to reopen. Most education funding comes from state and local governments.
Administration officials have said data do not suggest attending school would be dangerous for children because their infection rates are far lower than the population at large.
In response to the California districts’ announcement, the White House reiterated that the ideal scenario is for students to go to school. “Hopefully Los Angeles and San Diego can get there soon as well, as that is what is best for children.” spokesman Judd Deer said.
Newsom, who has said during the pandemic that it was up to local school districts to determine how best to educate their students, cheered the announcements by Los Angeles and San Diego.