Western Governors Coordinating Plan to Reopen States After Pandemic

Details of the plan to restart the West Coast’s economy after the Covid-19 pandemic shut it down will be released Tuesday.

A screenshot of California Gov. Gavin Newsom giving his daily coronavirus press briefing.

LOS ANGELES (CN) — The governors of California, Oregon and Washington state said Monday they will collaborate to reopen the West Coast’s economy through a “shared vision,” offering the latest sign of progress in the pandemic fight.

The governors said the shared approach will guide the state’s individual plans and will be based on “science, not politics.” California Governor Gavin Newsom said the regional framework allows the states to trade best practices as they face the task of safely resuming normal life in the coming weeks.

Specific details on California’s plans will be released Tuesday.

“It’s recognition that this pandemic and virus knows no boundaries, no borders, you can’t build walls around it, you can’t deny basic fundamental facts,” Newsom said Monday during his daily coronavirus press conference.

Most of the country’s earliest confirmed Covid-19 cases occurred on the West Coast, particularly in hotspots near Seattle and then Silicon Valley. But in recent weeks, the states have been able to prevent hospital surges seen in other major U.S. cities like New York, leading pundits to praise the leadership of Newsom, Washington Governor Jay Inslee and Oregon Governor Kate Brown.

According to data compiled by The New York Times, while New York has recorded 51 deaths per 100,000 residents, Oregon has seen 1, California 2 and Washington state 7.

The recent progress in bending the curve now has the Democratic governors switching their focus to what Newsom called the “vexing prospect” of opening their respective economies.

The regional recovery plan is not a binding document but a commitment by the governors to continue sharing information and successful public health measures.

According to the “Western States Pact,” the four main objectives are to protect older populations and prevent outbreaks in nursing homes, maintain adequate hospital surge capacity and supplies, mitigate underlying impacts on low-income and vulnerable communities and set up better testing and tracking systems.

“Covid-19 has preyed upon our interconnectedness. In the coming weeks, the West Coast will flip the script on Covid-19 — with our states acting in close coordination and collaboration to ensure the virus can never spread wildly in our communities,” the governors said Monday in a joint statement.

In his daily briefing, Newsom told reporters he will outline Tuesday the metrics and scientific questions that must be met in order to restart California’s $3 trillion economy. He hinted the plan won’t give a hard reopening date, but will include benchmarks, public health targets and prevention measures the state will need to meet.

“It’s a vexing prospect for every governor across this country, including the president himself, to figure out a way of doing this where we don’t invite a second wave,” Newsom said.

Newsom applauded residents for largely avoiding beaches and parks over the Easter weekend and said state hospitals only saw a modest increase in cases. He said 3,015 people are currently hospitalized with the virus, 1,178 in intensive care. The state’s verified death toll stands at 687.

“We’ve got to tame this virus, we’ve got to continue practicing physical distancing, social distancing and the safe practices that have helped us bend this curve,” Newsom said.

To improve social services during the pandemic, Newsom said the state will direct $42 million from its emergency pandemic fund to help the over 86,000 children in its welfare system. The funds will aid understaffed resource centers and provide a $200 monthly stipend for at-risk families, among other things.

In Los Angeles County, health officials reported a slight decline in the number of daily confirmed cases of residents who have tested positive for the Covid-19 virus.

While LA County health officials reported just 239 new confirmed cases on Monday, the county saw 779 new confirmed cases and 56 deaths over the Easter weekend.

Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer says she’s “cautiously optimistic” on the data though the dip could be attributed to a lag time in testing results reported to the county.

While new cases are often lower after weekends due to limited testing on weekends, the confirmed cases on Monday is the lowest update on confirmed cases since March 26.

“That’s a good thing,” said Ferrer.

In total, some 9,420 cases have been reported in LA County. Of those, 2,354 people required hospitalization and 15% of them required a ventilator in order to help them breathe.

In total, 320 LA County residents have died due to complications from the virus.

Officials say 29% of all deaths in LA County (92) are at assisted living facilities or nursing homes. Currently there are 1,372 confirmed infections from such facilities, 691 staff and 681 residents.

Ferrer says that in many instances when one person at a nursing home tests positive many of the residents may not get tested and are presumed to be infected.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles Unified School District reported on Monday that none of its 730,000 students will receive an “F” during the global pandemic. The second largest school district in the nation will remain closed through the school year, Superintendent Austin Beutner announced in a video update.

“We will not reopen school facilities until state and local health authorities tell us how it is safe and appropriate to do so,” said Beutner.

Summer school classes will be online and students in the LAUSD may have to settle for a virtual graduation ceremony.

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