SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday offered a sobering prediction on the surge of coronavirus cases coming to the state, projecting that more than half of the state’s residents will become infected over an eight-week period.
Newsom issued the stark assessment in a letter to President Donald Trump, requesting the immediate deployment of the USNS Mercy hospital ship to the Port of Los Angeles through the beginning of September.
“We project that roughly 56 percent of our population–25.5 million people–will be infected with the virus over an eight week period,” said Newsom in the letter.
Newsom said in the letter that California has had 126 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours – including 44 news community acquired transmission – a total increase of 21 percent. With the case rate doubling every four days in parts of the state, Newsom projected some 25.5 million Californians would eventually contract the virus.
A spokesman for the governor later on Thursday clarified, saying the 25.5 million cases represented a worst-case scenario without mitigation efforts such as business closures and shelter-in-place orders.
Anticipating the surge of coronavirus patients in California hospitals and damaging effects to workers, businesses and the state economy, Newsom separately sent a letter Thursday congressional leaders requesting federal help to supplement the state’s preparation efforts.
In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, Newsom asked for help to funding for public health emergency preparedness and to mitigate the losses felt by small businesses and workers.
“Given the advancing trajectory of this virus and its impacts on our state, I am requesting federal support to purchase and and stand up health care facilities to be used once local surge capacity in our existing hospitals and other facilities has been exhausted,” Newsom said. “This includes activating state-run hospitals, deploying mobile hospitals, other housing options for social distancing, and procuring necessary commodities.”
Newsom said funding is also needed for testing and treatment of uninsured individuals. The state estimates it needs more than $1 billion in initial federal funding to support the coordinated COVID-19 response among state and local authorities.
Newsom also said the coronavirus pandemic was severely stressing the state’s safety net for families hurt by the cost of living in the state and without federal intervention these middle-class households may fall into poverty.
To address those impacts, the governor requested:
- additional funds for unemployment insurance benefits beyond the maximum 26-week period
- increasing the Medicaid Federal Medical Assistance Percentage
- increasing the block grant for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- increases to food assistance programs such as SNAP and WIC
- expanded funding for housing and homeless programs.
- direct cash assistance and loan programs for small businesses
- funding for schools to beef up technology and provide broadband internet access to low-income students.