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California is imposing a curfew on most residents overnight as the most populous state tries to stave off an increase in coronavirus cases, which they fear could tax its health care system. (Nov. 19)

AP Domestic

Hundreds of protesters defied California’s new curfew Saturday night and gathered in Huntington Beach, as well as the mandate to stay home from 6 p.m.

The protesters, some waving large American flags, crossed the Pacific Coast Highway on foot amid blowing car horns in Orange County, about 35 miles south of Los Angeles.

Huntington Beach police lieutenant Ryan Reilly told NBC television in Los Angeles that the audience of about 400 protesters was mostly law-abiding, with “some, not all” wearing masks and falling in size by half after 90 minutes. Reilly said police did not intend to issue citations for curfew violations, adding: “We seek compliance and try to educate people. ”

Gavin Newsom on Thursday ordered the curfew, which is expected to last until December 21, as a measure to combat the growing number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the state. The restricted stay order applies to 41 counties that are currently in California’s most restrictive reopening rate, covering 94% of the state’s nearly 40 million inhabitants, and it allows for some exceptions to important activities.

“The virus is spreading at a pace we have not seen since the start of this pandemic, and the next few days and weeks will be crucial in stopping the wave,” Newsom said in a statement. “We sound the alarm.”

Newsom has been under fire recently after it was reported that he was attending a friend’s dinner party at an upscale Napa Valley restaurant in violation of the safety guidelines he has repeatedly promoted. Newsom apologized and called the decision “a bad mistake.”

Authorities say the goal of the curfew is to prevent people from mixing and drinking socially, the kind of activities that are blamed for getting COVID-19 infections hovering after being dipped just a few months ago. Dr. Mark Cullen, an infectious disease expert who recently retired from Stanford University, said the underlying goal is based on a reasonable interpretation of data.

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“A large number of people come together without paying attention to controls – no masks, no social distance, often indoors – many of these things actually happen at night,” Cullen said. However, he also questioned whether a limited curfew would be effective.

California, the second state to register more than 1 million cases of coronavirus after Texas, set a record with nearly 15,500 new infections Friday. Officials in the hard-hit Los Angeles County, the nation’s largest, are considering even stricter measures than the curfew.

Contribution: Associated Press

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