SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) — California Governor Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday Google was providing more than 100,000 Wi-Fi broadband access points across the state to help bridge the digital divide for people who need internet access during the coronavirus shelter-in-place.
In addition, Google would also be providing thousands of Chromebooks for people who needed a device to be able to take advantage of the free Wi-Fi access points, which would be provided at no charge for at least three months.
“Those 100,000 points will help us substantially address the digital divide issues, the rural issues, the equity issues that are at play even in the best of times, but substantively are highlighted in these more difficult times,” said Newsom.
COMPLETE COVERAGE: CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC
Newsom also confirmed that the state’s schools would remain closed for the rest of the school year, and the state would continue to increase efforts for “distance learning,” and said hopes there are “more Google’s out there” that would help in the effort.
During Newsom’s press conference Wednesday, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said distance learning – in which students and teachers are in separate locations – would continue for the forseeable future.
“We have been in communications with superintendents around the state, urging all of our superintendents and our schools to continue to proceed as if we can only educate our kids with distance learning for the remainder of the school year. Quite frankly, none of knows when it’s safe enough for our students to return to campus,” said Thurmond. “Out of an abundance of caution, we believe it is most important that all of our schools maximize their efforts around distance learning to help all of our students.”
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Thurmond also said the state Department of Education will hold a webinar at 3 p.m. Thursday for teachers and education experts to discuss effective ways to teach during the pandemic.
“This is a tough challenge, but as it relates to educating our kids, it’s a challenge that we must meet,” Thurmond said. “We can do more together, we’re stronger together and together we will support the educational needs of our 6 million students.”
Newsom acknowledged the pressure that distance learning will put on caregivers and parents, especially mothers. “Moms are already carrying a disproportionate amount of weight in the household,” said Newsom. “As someone who is trying to homeschool their children, trust me, I know how difficult it is.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, April 1, California has more than 8,800 coronavirus cases and 187 deaths. Across the U.S., there are more than 200,000 cases and more than 4,400 deaths as of Wednesday afternoon.
At Wednesday’s briefing, Dr. Mark Ghaly, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said coronavirus case modeling shows California will need approximately 66,000 beds toward the end of May, and that the peak of the patient surge has yet to be determined.
Ghaly stressed the state still needed tens of thousands of ventilators. Newsom said while the state has the capacity to do compel firms to produce ventilators, companies across the state are contributing to the ventilator issue in real time.