California Outlines Plans to Deal With Expected Surge of Virus Patients

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – As part of California’s push to prepare hospitals for a surge of infected patients, Governor Gavin Newsom said Monday the state has gained 1,000 ventilators from Tesla CEO Elon Musk and will partner with China to procure badly needed protective gear. 

Newsom called the state’s ongoing efforts to equip health care workers with adequate protective gear during the chaos of a global pandemic “heroic,” and thanked Musk and the private sector for teaming to donate and make ventilators, hospital gowns and masks.

“We’ll continue in the state of California to punch way above our weight,” Newsom said in a press briefing. “We’re going to be sending, literally, chartered flights from China into the state of California.”

Customers wear protective masks in a Los Angeles supermarket. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

According to the most recent data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, California has the fourth most confirmed Covid-19 cases of any state with nearly 1,900. But as Newsom has repeated over the last two weeks, the numbers are surely to rise in a state with 40 million people and a multitude of major cities.

As a result, California issued the first statewide shelter-in-place order last week and ordered all but non-essential employees to remain at home.

Newsom says predictive models show a glaring shortage of hospital beds if the shelter-in-place orders are ignored or are unsuccessful and that both the state and private hospitals are rushing to secure 50,000 more beds. He said hospitals are designing plans to build temporary facilities for infected patients in parking lots and state agencies are looking to secure motels, convention centers and fairgrounds for additional capacity.

“We’re well under way in terms of identifying those individual assets,” Newsom said. “In order to procure that, it’s going to take a heroic effort.”

California is also receiving new support from the Trump administration, as the president has deployed the USNS Mercy naval hospital ship to Los Angeles. The world’s largest hospital ship is expected to relieve the burden on Southern California hospitals by treating non-coronavirus patients.

The Democratic governor said he thanked President Donald Trump over the weekend and on Monday applauded the federal government’s promise to stop the hoarding of personal protective equipment.

“I was very pleased to just watch President Trump’s press conference, and I applaud him and our attorney general for going after hoarding and price gouging,” Newsom continued.

Scenes of crowded California beaches and hiking trails were rampant over the weekend and prompted instant changes on Monday.

Southern Californians who heeded government officials’ suggestion during the coronavirus pandemic to “head outside” for fresh air over the weekend failed to practice social distancing measures and stay six feet apart from one another, resulting in the closure Monday of all 11 city of San Diego beaches, in addition to the closure of parks, hiking trails and lakes.

“We need to spend time looking out for each other, not dealing with groups of people not taking this as seriously as they should,” Faulconer said.

Faulconer confirmed San Diego Police Department Chief David Nisleit will use his discretion in enforcing the state and local government codes pertaining to Newsom’s March 19 ”Stay at Home” order when it comes to residents congregating in outdoor recreation areas.

Violators could be jailed for up to six months and/or be fined $1,000 for the misdemeanor offense, Nisleit said, though he said officials hoped residents would “self-police” before enforcement measures needed to be taken by officers.

Officials said Monday several dozen first responders in San Diego had been exposed to Covid-19, including 29 lifeguards, three firefighters and 15 police officers.

State-operated beaches will remain open but Newsom said the state hopes to prevent overcrowding by closing some state parking lots with high visitation. He said the closure does not mean Californians should expect checkpoints the next time they go hiking or to the beach.

“When you’re out there and you can’t even find parking at a beach, it suggests you’re not going to practice social distancing and it may suggest you want to find a new location,” Newsom said.

Newsom has updated reporters and residents via Facebook and Twitter routinely over the last month, speaking without notes or props from the state’s emergency command center in Sacramento. But Newsom appeared to be directing his message Monday to a larger audience as he talked about the possibility of using California’s buying power to help other states. 

“It’s incumbent to begin the process of centralizing the procurement, it’s incumbent upon us to address this issue in a much more systemic way,” Newsom said in an apparent pitch to other states seeking more supplies.

While Trump on Monday pushed back against a nationwide shelter-in-place order and hinted the federal government could soon ease restrictions, Newsom made it seem like the fight against the coronavirus was still in its infancy, in California and nationwide. 

“If you want to bend the curve, we have got to bend to a deeper understanding and meet this moment head on,” Newsom said. “We have to act differently, and it’s a sum total of quite literally hundreds of millions of people acting differently to meet this moment.”

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CNS Reporter Bianca Bruno contributed to this report. 

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