Newsom Declares Budget Emergency as Covid Wrecks Reserves

California Gov. Gavin Newsom takes off his face mask before a June 1 news conference after meeting African-American community leaders in Sacramento. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

(CN) — California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a budget emergency Thursday in order to move $8 billion in rainy-day reserves to stanch the fiscal bleeding caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The move allows the Legislature to start tackling what could be a $54 billion deficit caused entirely by the pandemic. It also ensures the availability of personal protective equipment, medical equipment and help meet other expenses as the Golden State sees record spikes in the number of Covid-19 cases and a run on hospital facilities statewide.

The state currently has 10,917 ICU beds, of which 3,790 are available, with 11,503 ventilators on standby. More than a third of all ICU patients in the state are Covid-19 patients.

But California has been making strides to monitor infection rates in counties across the state. Currently 11 counties are on a watchlist of sorts due to their recent rise in positive test results, delaying their efforts to fully reopen for business.

Imperial County in particular has seen a spike in infections. The county has 5,744 confirmed positive cases out of a total of 27,778 people tested. Officials cited the county’s proximity to Mexico as a key reason for its recent increase in positive test results. Large numbers of people cross the border every day to go to work, and many residents regularly seek medical care in Mexico because of the decreased cost.

The county has two morgues. Only one accepts people who die of Covid-19 — and it’s past capacity.

Newsom has tried to drill in the importance of contact tracing, the process by which local workers survey infected patients and follow up with their recent contacts to break the cycle of transmission. Tracers check symptoms, refer individuals for testing and recommend self-isolation and treatment where needed. Officials are trying to get every city on the same platform to create a more granular level of data available at the county level, which can help with future decisions and inform better individual behaviors.

Over the past two weeks, the rate of positive cases has risen to 5.1% — an alarming increase at a time when many people are becoming complacent with disaster fatigue. Increased testing means allows the state to identify many people who slipped through the cracks early on.

In the past two weeks, California has seen 56,000 new confirmed cases of Covid-19. Over 100,000 people received tests on Wednesday alone.

Arizona and Texas have also seen rising infection rates. Arizona has confirmed 63,030 total cases since the start of the pandemic, with 3,056 new cases on Thursday alone. That’s 876 infections per 100,000 residents. California recently donated 14 million masks in partnership with FEMA to Arizona.

Texas has reported 131,917 cases total, of which 55,125 are currently infected.

When asked about the conditions in other parts of the country, Newsom responded, “I’m not here to attack the governors, to point fingers. We’re working in the spirit of collaboration and cooperation with governors — Democrats, Republicans, human beings — that want to do the best they possibly can and care deeply about their states, their families and their communities.”

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