SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) — Governor Gavin Newsom said on Wednesday that the state faced one of its deadliest days yet in the struggle to contain the coronavirus pandemic with 68 new deaths confirmed in California.
The governor provided those number during his daily update on California’s response to COVID-19. The new deaths brought the state’s total number of deaths to 442.
“442 individuals who have lost their lives. 442 families torn asunder since this virus hit the state of California. Our hearts go out to all of them, particularly today, on Passover,” said Newsom. “I just want to extend our deep sympathies and empathy for all of those who are struggling from not only this moment, but from the deep impact losing a loved one is having on families large and small.”
Newsom said the state was able to confirm 16,957 total positive COVID-19 cases, with 1,154 of those cases in intensive care units making up less than 50 percent of the total 2,714 currently hospitalized in California.
COMPLETE COVERAGE: CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC
Of the total new deaths, 17 were reported in the Bay Area with eight in San Mateo County and three each in Marin, Alameda and Santa Clara counties.
Newsom also briefly discussed how the number of cases broke down across ethnicities, though he noted that the analysis had only been made on approximately 37 percent of the total data for California. Newsom said the number of positive COVID-19 cases included about 30 percent of patients who identified as Hispanic of Latino, 14 percent who identified as Asian and six percent who identified as black.
He said those numbers so far appeared to track in accordance with the ethnic breakdown of the state’s general population.
Newsom also said that, regardless of immigration status, patients are eligible for testing and treatment for COVID-19 at hospital emergency rooms, but that was not the case at community clinics. The state has requested a waiver from the federal government that would allow a patients without citizenship to have what Newsom called “presumptive eligibility” for treatment due to the urgency of the current outbreak.
Governor Newsom also offered some positive news on the state’s effort to collect personal protective equipment, saying that California had secured and distributed 41.5 million N95 masks while only taking a little over a million from the national stockpile.
Newsom noted that California officials were refocused on relationships with vendors and the supply chain to collect more PPE materials including masks, gowns, face shields and gloves.
The governor also said his office had submitted a request to the state legislature to use money from California’s disaster response account, allowing officials to make a $1.4 billion investment on PPE.
Newsom said he was concerned in providing personal protective equipment not just for the state’s health care workers, but also for grocery workers and people working at the DMV. An enormous quantity of PPE needs to be available to meet the existing demand, and governor said the state was ramping up its effort to procure more from overseas sources.
“We’re dealing at a time where we need to go boldly and we need to meet this moment without playing small ball any longer, and we need to coordinate and organize our nation-state status as we can, only in California, with our procurement capacity that quite literally is second only to the United States itself,” Newsom said. “California is in a position not only to leverage those supply chains, leverage our investment but do so in a way that protects the taxpayers themselves.”
The Director of the California Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) Mark Ghilarducci also spoke, giving additional details about the process of PPE procurement, mentioning the importance of building a sustainable pipeline of resources.
“Yesterday, we were able to establish an agreement with a California-based company called BYD America, which has a direct reachback into China to be able to build a sustainable amount of monthly masks that will be coming in to assist us,” Ghilarducci said.
Ghilarducci said that the Office of Emergency Services was working closely with FEMA to focus its equipment dispersal efforts on counties across the state that have been identified as hot spots for coronavirus cases, including Alameda, San Francisco, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.
He also mentioned that the state was working with FEMA on new technology that was manufactured by Patel, a defense contracting company, and would allow for the sterilization and cleaning of N95 masks so they could be reused.
The technology has already been certified by the FDA and the CDC and should be in operation in California by next week.
Newsom also said that the state would make some supplies available to other states in need as had been done earlier this week with ventilators. California would work in partnership with FEMA to distribute whatever surplus PPE might be available to other parts of the country.
At the close of his prepared remarks, Newsom encouraged the state’s residents to continue to shelter in place in their homes and adhere to social and physical distancing, reiterating that their actions were saving lives and that evidence of California “flattening the curve” should not be looked on as an excuse to loosen current restrictions on public gathering, especially during the Easter and Passover holidays.
“It’s a time for many to celebrate and reflect on a day like this, Passover, and so I just want to extend that appreciation to those of faith that are also struggling because it is not a time to congregate, it is a time to pray, it is a time to reflect, it’s time to practice our faith but not in these congregate settings, where at this moment in time we need to continue to practice physical distancing,” Newsom said.
“While the curve is bending in the state of California, it’s also stretching, and at any moment we pull back, you can see that curve go back up, that slope go back up,” he continued. “I know everybody is tempted with Easter Sunday, the weather’s starting to improve, we’re already trying to get more messages out there to everybody who’s likely to say, ‘Well maybe, honey, this is the weekend we can take a nice stroll and walk in the park or go up on a trail head.’ I just want to remind folks, if you do that, you must practice safe physical distancing. And if you’re on a single trail head going up and folks are coming down, you can’t do that.”