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California, Oregon ban gatherings of more than 250 people

March 12 (UPI) -- California and Oregon have banned public gatherings of more than 250 people in an attempt to limit their states' spread of the deadly and infectious coronavirus.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the policy change late Wednesday at the request of public health officials urging the state's 40 million residents to either postpone or cancel all gatherings until at least the end of this month.

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The policy change stipulates that non-essential gatherings must be limited to 250 people until April while smaller events may be held if participants are able to maintain a social distance of six feet per person, the California governor's office said, adding that gatherings of high-risk individuals, such as the elderly or those with weakened immune systems, should be limited to 10 people.

"Changing our actions for a short period of time will save the life of one or more people you know -- that's the choice before us," Newsom said in a statement. "Each of us has extraordinary power to slow the spread of this disease. Not holding that concert or community event can have cascading effects -- saving dozens of lives and preserving critical healthcare resources that your family may need a month from now."

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In Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown issued a similar ban on gatherings of 250 people at the recommendation of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The measure will be in place four weeks, affecting sporting events, concerts and non-essential school activities.

"Nobody is immune to this virus, it can touch everyone," Brown said in a statement. "We are seeing cases across multiple counties and age groups, and in people exposed through different circumstances. It's time for us all to do what we can to slow its spread and take care of one another."

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Along with the ban, Brown expanded Oregon's COVID-19 testing capabilities by allowing outpatient clinics to order coronavirus tests without authorization from the Oregon Health Authority.

News of the bans follows Washington Gov. Jay Inslee issuing a similar ban earlier Wednesday and U.S. President Donald Trump suspending travel to the United States from most of Europe after the World Health Organization designated the global outbreak a pandemic.

According to a live tally by Johns Hopkins University, the United States has more than 1,300 confirmed infections and 38 deaths due to COVID-19. The CDC, which updates the statistics on its website once a day at noon, states there are 938 cases in the country and 29 deaths.

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Of the United States' confirmed cases, California has 177, Oregon accounts for 21 cases and Washington State has 366 infections, according to data from their individual health departments.

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