Newsom: I have a responsibility to do better

Good morning, California. It’s Monday, April 6.

Testing to increase fivefold in CA

Marcelo Prado and Katie Zegarski of UC Davis Health load coronavirus samples onto trays. Photo courtesy of UC Davis

Gov. Gavin Newsom said California will expand daily coronavirus testing fivefold over the next few weeks in an effort to correct a massive testing backlog that, at peak, left 65,000 people waiting for test results — some for as many as 12 days.

Newsom said Saturday that 126,700 Californians had been tested for the novel coronavirus and 13,000 were waiting for results. Although that’s a significant decrease from the 59,500 tests that were pending as of Thursday, Newsom said he wasn’t satisfied.

The governor took personal responsibility for California’s inadequate testing, marking a shift in how he’s previously addressed the issue.

  • Newsom: “Let me just acknowledge at the outset that the testing space has been a challenging one for us, and I own that. I have a responsibility as your governor to do better and do more testing in the state of California.”

Here’s what Californians can expect in the next few weeks:

  • Five to seven high-capacity testing hubs around the state through a partnership with UC San Diego and UC Davis
  • A Stanford University test that determines if someone has developed an immune response to COVID-19 and can go back to work
  • A five-minute test from Abbott Laboratories, which has committed to 75 testing sites in California

Newsom said he wants testing to multiply “exponentially” across California, and issued a mission statement of sorts moving forward.

  • “Don’t complain and don’t explain. … I’m not going to explain away why we didn’t do more and better. All I can say is we’re going to do more and better, and we own that, I own that.”

The Bottom Line: As of 8 p.m. Sunday night, California had 15,180 confirmed coronavirus cases and 348 deaths from the virus, according to a Los Angeles Times tracker. (These numbers are different from those of the state Department of Public Health, which are updated less often.)

Also: CalMatters is tracking, by county, positive and suspected cases of COVID-19 patients hospitalized throughout the state. Check it out.

Other stories you should know

1. For developmentally disabled and their families, coronavirus unravels safety net

Sue Swezey, 83, stands with her autistic son John Swezey, 57, in Menlo Park, California on March 30, 2020
Sue Swezey, 83, stands with her autistic son John Swezey, 57, in Menlo Park on March 30. Photo by Josh Edelson for CalMatters/Los Angeles Times

With the shutdown of state-funded programs that provide home health aides and day care, more than 360,000 severely disabled Californians and their families are “left to their own devices,” said Sue Swezey, 83, who is now caring full time for her 57-year-old autistic son. Meanwhile, many caretakers face furloughs, and those still working face confusion as to whether the state considers them essential workers, Dan Morain and Anita Chabria report in a CalMatters-Los Angeles Times collaboration. “We don’t know if we’re going to survive,” said the head of one nonprofit program. 

2. Can the CA Legislature govern from home?

coronavirus california legislature, Sen. Holly Mitchell, upper left corner, on a video conference from her home. Photo courtesy of the office of Sen. Holly Mitchell
Sen. Holly Mitchell, upper left corner, meets with advocates via video conference from her home. Photo courtesy of the office of Sen. Holly Mitchell

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, California lawmakers will be working from home through at least May 4 in an unprecedented interruption in legislative business, CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall reports. The Assembly speaker suggested lawmakers will consider fewer than a quarter of the bills introduced, and Newsom said his earlier $222 billion budget proposal is “inoperable.” Meanwhile, questions remain about how the Legislature will be able to vote from home and provide public access to open sessions. Lawmakers will need to figure it out soon, as they have to pass the state budget by June 15.

3. Nearly 900 homeless move into hotel rooms as CA considers long-term housing solutions

A motel in Fresno. California is housing the homeless in motels as a result of COVID-19. (Photo by John Walker/The Fresno Bee)

California has leased 6,867 hotel and motel rooms to shelter homeless individuals who are at risk or have tested positive for COVID-19 under a new initiative called Project Roomkey, with a federal agency footing 75% of the bill, CalMatters’ Matt Levin reports. Nearly 900 homeless Californians have already moved in. The state hopes to procure 15,000 rooms, although that would help just a fraction of its homeless population. Nevertheless, Newsom said the state is considering long-term housing solutions for the homeless, and many of the hotel leases have purchase options. “This was the crisis we needed to address before the COVID-19 crisis,” he said.

4. Wear a mask in public! OK, but what kind?

Illustration of silhouettes wearing protective masks
Americans are getting a crash course in face coverings. Illustration via iStock

Every American should wear a face mask in public to protect against contracting or spreading coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday. Riverside County took it a step further on Saturday, ordering residents to wear face masks whenever they leave their homes. As questions abound as to which masks and face coverings to wear and how effective they are, CalMatters’ Julie Cart has a helpful guide.

CalMatters coronavirus webinars

  • Tuesday, April 7 at 1 p.m.: CalMatters talks with Isabel Guzman, director of the Office of the Small Business Advocate at GO-Biz, about how California is helping small businesses weather the coronavirus pandemic. Register here and submit questions here.
  • Thursday, April 9 at 1 p.m.: CalMatters talks with therapists Amy Ahfield and Mark Levine about how to maintain mental health during the epidemic. Register here and submit questions here.

CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: California’s high-flying economy has crashed into the coronavirus, and the results are dramatic. But how long will they last, and what will be the net effect?

Though the coronavirus pandemic has far-reaching implications for all industries, Americans should feel reassured knowing their government is working to address this unprecedented challenge and provide resources to not only get through this uncertain time but thrive on the other side of it, writes Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the U.S. House of Representatives from California’s 23rd Congressional District.

In light of the coronavirus epidemic, it is imperative that Gov. Newsom’s Master Plan on Aging takes on a serious public policy role. We don’t need platitudes for addressing the needs of the elderly. We need concrete policies, strong regulations with enforcement teeth and a commitment to sustained oversight, argues Ed Dudensing, former Sacramento County deputy district attorney.

Other things worth your time

Could coronavirus push California to bridge its digital divide? // CalMatters

Trump said the NFL could start by September. Not in California, Newsom says. // The Mercury News

What will life look like in the Bay Area once the shelter-in-place order is lifted? // The San Francisco Chronicle

Some states have shut down construction because of coronavirus. California isn’t one of them. // Politico

All of America is fighting coronavirus. So why aren’t the states working together? // The Los Angeles Times

Love, dating and relationships in the age of coronavirus: Here’s how San Franciscans are responding. // The San Francisco Chronicle

Why the majority of coronavirus victims are men // The Washington Post

California’s Slab City is often referred to as the “last free place.” Can its residents escape a pandemic? // The Desert Sun

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See you tomorrow.

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