Whalers Cove on Point Lobos State Reserve. On Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that parking lots at many state parks and beaches would close down in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19. Photo by David Iliff via Creative Commons
Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that California needs 50,000 more hospital beds on top of the nearly 74,000 it already has, based on updated modeling of the state’s projected coronavirus patients, CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall reports. The number represents a significant jump from last week, when Newsom said the state would need 20,000 additional beds.
To make up the deficit, Newsom said hospitals are doubling their surge capacities to provide 30,000 beds, while the state will provide the remaining 20,000 beds by leasing and refurbishing mothballed hospitals, convention facilities, fairgrounds, hotels and motels.
The governor also said bringing on fourth-year medical students, almost-licensed nurses and retired doctors could help staff the additional beds. And to equip medical personnel with the necessary protective gear, Newsom said the state is working on procuring 1 billion gloves, 500 million masks and 200 million shields.
The governor framed hospital capacity as the cumulative effect of all Californians’ behaviors.
Newsom: “Society becomes how we behave. You’re not stuck in traffic, you are traffic. We are our behaviors. And in order to meet this moment, we need to improve our behaviors, all of us. … That 50,000 bed number … assumes that we’re doing that. We have numbers that are substantially higher if we don’t. … We want to bend that curve. We can’t bend the curve if everyone’s out on a beautiful Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday.”
Although the statewide shelter-in-place order permits people to go outside for fresh air and exercise, local governments have been shutting down overcrowded public spaces. Marin County closed its parks Sunday, San Francisco closed its playgrounds Monday, and Southern California towns closed tennis and basketball courts, picnic areas, playgrounds, skate parks and beach parking lots.
But the question remains: until when? How long is the shelter-in-place expected to last?
Newsom said it’s a “dynamic situation” and “we deal with circumstances as they appear,” adding that when it comes to hospital capacity, “we are looking at the next eight weeks on our curve, maybe the next eight to 12 weeks, to address this surge and again, do it in a thoughtful and pragmatic way.”
So…probably at least eight weeks.
The Bottom Line: As of 9:45 p.m. Monday night, California had 2,220 confirmed coronavirus cases and 42 deaths from the virus, according to a Los Angeles Times tracker.
Other stories you should know
1. PG&E pleads guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter
The utility said Monday it pleaded guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection with California’s 2018 Camp wildfire and will pay $3.5 million in fines and penalties, The Los Angeles Times reported. It also pleaded guilty to one count of causing a fire in violation of the state penal code. The settlement, reached between PG&E and the Butte County District Attorney’s Office on March 17, includes an agreement that no more criminal charges will be filed against the utility. The Camp wildfire killed 85 people and destroyed more than 13,000 homes, ravaging the city of Paradise.
2.Covered California health insurance premiums will likely rise 40%next year
Due to the cost of caring for COVID-19 patients, insurance premiums for Covered California, the state version of Obamacare, will likely rise by at least 40% in 2021 unless the federal government steps in, according to the Sacramento Bee. The agency, which said “unforeseen costs” of over $251 billion will translate to higher premiums and out-of-pocket expenses for patients, is asking for federal funding to help cover those costs.
3.Join CalMatters’ exclusive webinar on unemployment and paid leave
Mark your calendars for March 26 at 1 p.m. for the next CalMatters webinar in the “Getting Through Coronavirus, Explained” series. CalMatters poverty reporter Jackie Botts will moderate a discussion with Julie Su, Secretary of the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency, and Labor Commissioner Lilia Garcia-Brower to help answer your questions about filing for unemployment and figuring out sick and family leave.Register here, and check out our past webinar on best coronavirus practices for seniors.
CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Working life as Californians knew it has changed very radically and very quickly, leaving one wondering whether it’s just a temporary adjustment or the harbinger of a more permanent alteration.
The coasts versus the Central Valley: As California suffers from economic fallout because of coronavirus, the stark difference between wealthy coastal areas and the Central Valley reveals the inequality of where the state’s philanthropic dollars are invested, argues Finn Dobkin, who works in municipal government.