STOCKTON (CBS SF) — Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday announced a new $52 million plan to help the eight counties in the struggling Central Valley come to grips with surging COVID-19 infections in the region.

The money from a federal grant would target eight Central Valley counties “to improve isolation protocols, our quarantine protocols, our testing protocols and to enhance our health care workers by providing more support as well as more personnel.”

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Newsom opened his comments from the Diamond Nuts company in Stockton by saying that recent rise in coronavirus cases in the state was concentrated in certain parts of the state and certain sectors of California’s economy, with the Central Valley being hit the hardest. Data shows transmission rates in the region are growing, including the effective reproduction number (R-effective), or the average number of people on to whom one infected person will pass the virus.

“We have eight counties that have R-effective rates … north of one percent. We have eight counties were we are seeing an increase of infections. We’re seeing positivity rates in the Central Valley on the low end of 10.7 percent in Fresno, Tulare and Stanislaus and, on the higher end, 17.7 percent positivity rates,” explained Newsom.

The positivity rate for the entire state remains at an average of 7.5 percent as of Monday.

The governor said that there was higher community spread happening in the region that was disproportionately impacting essential workers in the Latino community, requiring “laser-like focus” by state officials as far as targeted interventions and resource allocations, working with local, state and federal organizations to provide relief and reduce the spread.

The governor said the $52 million was provided to the state through a grant from the federal government as part of a nearly half-billion dollar grant from the CDC, with the initial $52 million being focused on issues in the Central Valley.

“These dollars, we think, are timely. These dollars certainly are critical and important and they will build off local infrastructure that is already in place,” Newsom said.

Much as the state deployed strike teams to help reduced the spread of the virus in Imperial County, Newsom said that state officials would now focus the deployment of similar strike teams in the Central Valley.

Newsom noted that the Diamond Nuts company in Stockton had partnered with local and state officials to test and protect essential workers.

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“It’s not the fact that an employee is tested positive. It’s how we respond to that employee being tested positive, and how we protect those co-workers, how we protect the entire business and the community where those businesses are operating,” explained Newsom.

Newsom also thanked Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs for his efforts to stem the rising coronavirus cases in his city.

California Health and Human Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said the numbers in the Central Valley indicate there is a great deal of work to do to get transmission rates down.

“We are seeing top-level, high-level transmission rates, test positivity rates as high as 18 percent in some of the counties,” said Ghaly. “We’re seeing an inordinate number of cases across many of the eight counties in the Central Valley that reach between 250 persons infected per 100,000 over 14 days all the way north of 450.”

The governor said 6,891 positive cases were reported in the past 24 hours based on 128,439 tests that were administered. The 29 fatalities reporte Sunday bring the state’s current daily average to 109 deaths.

The state was reporting improving numbers as far as hospitalizations and ICU patients. While hospitalizations were up 50 percent over a two-week period a few weeks back, Newsom said that number had dropped to three percent. Similarly the number of patients in ICU had risen to 39 percent in the same period a few weeks ago had dropped to seven percent in the past two weeks.

Newsom also announced that Santa Cruz County is likely to be added to the state’s watchlist.

Santa Cruz County has been on the monitoring list for fewer than three days, according to state officials. Counties get flagged and placed on the watchlist due to factors like rising coronavirus case rates and
hospitalizations.

Santa Cruz County’s addition to the monitoring list means 37 of the state’s 58 counties are now on it. In addition, 10 of the greater Bay
Area’s 11 counties are now on the list, with the exception of San Mateo County.

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“We have an enormous amount of work still to do,” Newsom said. “Not only here in the Central Valley, not just other parts of this state but all across the state of California to ultimately vanquish this disease.”