Newsom: Most California Schools May Be Closed Until Fall

(CN) – California Governor Gavin Newsom said the state’s approximately 6 million public school students will likely not go back to school before the summer break, offering a sobering look at the degree to which everyday life will alter for the foreseeable future in the Golden State.

“It’s unlikely many of these schools, few if any, will open before the summer break,” Newsom said.

The forecast gives insight into several months of social distancing requirements for California residents as public health officials take increasingly drastic measures to fight the global coronavirus pandemic.

A Caltrans freeway sign reads: “Wash your hands, Stay healthy, Avoid COVID-19” in the San Fernando Valley section of Los Angeles. (AP Photo/John Antczak)

Monterey County joined seven other counties in Northern California and ordered shelter in place for all residents until at least April 7, but Newsom’s press conference seems to indicate such measures could be in place through April, May and well into June.

Monterey County issued its order after two county residents tested positive for the novel coronavirus dubbed COVID-19. Sonoma County, which has six confirmed cases, also ordered a similar shelter in place for residents.

Another Santa Clara resident died from coronavirus on Tuesday, bringing the total to five. Santa Clara County is California’s epicenter of the continuing outbreak of the virulent disease.

Newsom said there are about 90,000 hospital beds in the state. Hospital officials are attempting to run models that show how much the infrastructure will be strained based on infection rates and hospitalization rates, the governor said.

For instance, if hospitalization rates are around 5%, the state may require 5,000 more beds. If rates are closer to 20%, the state could be short 20,000 beds.

Hospitals are in dire need of masks, gloves, gowns and other equipment, as shortages of equipment are plaguing the front lines in the fight against the pandemic across the country.

Newsom seemed to indicate a surge of cases and hospitalizations are inevitable in the next eight weeks, but officials hope the social distancing measures being enacted throughout the state will be sufficient to stave off the horrors transpiring in Italy and other places throughout Europe.

“We just had some candid and sobering conversations with those running hospitals,” Newsom said.

The state did procure two large hospitals and is looking to ramp up operations, Newsom said. Newsom said he has called up the National Guard as they have flexibility in applying various plans in response to the evolving pandemic.

The governor said he talked with President Donald Trump on Tuesday afternoon and feels confident that testing will ramp up over the next two weeks. Newsom said the problem is not a lack of testing kits, but a lack of components – and compared the current situation to having several printers but no ink.

“We need more swabs,” Newsom said. “We need more components for the testing kits.”

However, mobile testing is online in Santa Clara County and Newsom said he hopes efforts will ramp up statewide in the coming days.

The state continues to try and procure hotels, motels and trailers to house the thousands of homeless people in California who are particularly vulnerable to the disease due to a lack of shelter and possible health issues. A homeless person in Santa Clara County died Tuesday of COVID-19.

So far at least 11 people in California have died as a result of the disease. There are 617 confirmed cases in California, with 326 in the Bay Area.

There are about 5,800 confirmed cases in the United States, and so far 97 people have died. More than half of those deaths include patients in Washington state.

Worldwide, the total number of infected people is nearing 200,000, with about 7,800 deaths and 80,000 people who have recovered.

Newsom also answered questions about the state’s economy. He noted the Golden State is sitting on record reserves but uncertainty about the near-term economy remains.

In other economic news, the Bay Area Regional Transit system said it will continue to operate during the shelter in place order, with strict social distancing requirements. But BART officials said emergency funds will be required to keep the trains running.

The agency anticipates an 85% decline in ridership.

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