Nurses Stessi Cattrell, and Lisa Mogannam, left, and Stessi Cattrell, left, carry a bed into a Accelerated Care Unit (ACU) on Saturday, March 7, 2020. The unit will provide a negative pressure environment to house patients with respiratory symptoms outside the Parnassus emergency room. Photo by Noah Berger courtesy of UCSF
Good morning, California. It’s Thursday, March 19.
Swim goggles, hardware store gloves “not acceptable”
Are California’s hospitals prepared for a rapid increase of COVID-19 patients?
We’ll find out soon enough.
Projections by state health officials indicate that California hospitals could handle a surge — right now, statewide — of about 10,000 patients, CalMatters’ Rachel Becker, Ana Ibarra and Judy Lin report. But given the potential for the virus to spread so far and so fast, some models project the state could need closer to 20,000 extra hospital beds.
In addition, hospitals lack an adequate supply of essential items like ventilators and protective clothing for nurses and doctors, which could lead to increased spread of the virus, Becker and Ibarra report.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday: “I heard one case — don’t over-panic on this one, but this gives you a sense — where they were purchasing swim goggles because of concern about face protection. Others that were just going out and getting gloves from traditional hardware stores and grocery stores. That’s not acceptable under these circumstances.”
In order to meet the influx of COVID-19 patients, hospitals plan to transfer noncritical patients to other facilities. In addition, California is leasing two large hospitals using some of the $1.1 billion in emergency funding state legislators passed Tuesday. Newsom said the state has also requested federal aid to set up mobile hospitals and a hospital on a U.S. Navy ship.
Will it be enough? It’s still unclear because the scope and reach of the virus in California remains unknown. This is due largely to insufficient testing and technical difficulties that have slowed down testing, Becker and Ibarra write. What is clear, though, is that many more people have the virus than have been confirmed by federal and state officials.
At least 12 counties in the Bay Area and central California, plus the cities of Palm Springs and Fresno, have implemented “shelter in place” orders affecting 20% of the state’s population. // Los Angeles Times
A new state website about coronavirus (www.covid19.ca.gov) shares resources, tips and announcements.
In the Bay Area, you can be cited for a misdemeanor if you don’t obey the shelter-in-place order. But “no one’s going to jail over this.” // The Mercury News
How one Bay Area safety net agency is responding to heightened needs from the coronavirus pandemic. // CalMatters
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The Bottom Line: As of 10:30 p.m. Wednesday night, California had 869 confirmed coronavirus cases and 17 deaths from the virus, according to a Los Angeles Times tracker.
Other stories you should know
1. Need help staying afloat during coronavirus? These proposals could make a difference
Coronavirus has hit every Californian hard but especially the 6.9 million who don’t have enough money to cover basic needs and the additional 7.2 million teetering just above the poverty line. Local, state and federal officials are rushing to soften the economic blow and ensure people can stay home to contain the spread of the virus. CalMatters poverty reporter Jackie Botts explores proposals including cash payments, tax relief, halting evictions and foreclosures, increasing paid leave and unemployment benefits, help with groceries, and free coronavirus health care.
2. Can California public schools pull off “distance learning”?
After Newsom said Tuesday that California K-12 schools would likely remain closed through summer break, he suggested parents might homeschool their children with help from schools about online distance learning. The California Department of Education held a Wednesday webinar providing broad guidance on distance learning to school leaders. But educators are concerned that all distance learning isn’t created equal, pointing out that some students may not have internet access at home and some school districts don’t have the necessary infrastructure, CalMatters education reporter Ricardo Cano writes.
3. A petition to reduce college tuition
As colleges rush to transition to online coursework, a petition to reduce tuition for all California public colleges has gained almost 7,000 signatures, EdSource reports. A UC Irvine freshman started the petition, arguing that online classes don’t give the same experience as in-person ones and students shouldn’t be charged the same price for both. Although UCs and CSUs are considering partial refunds for university dorms, dining plans and other fees, they haven’t budged on tuition.
There’s also a movement gaining traction at UC Berkeley to give everyone A grades for the semester because of the academic challenges of remote learning and the stress of moving off campus. The petition has almost 5,500 signatures.
4. An interview with the “Dear Abby for coronavirus”
We turned the tables by asking him some questions.
Q: What’s the question you get the most often?
Nigel: The most common question is about high-risk groups, asking if I’m a senior or if my parent is a senior, what can we do and what can we not do? Whatever we can do to help alleviate that burden — we’re doing our damndest to keep people informed on what they can and can’t do with the information we have today. We didn’t know until recently that the virus can probably live on plastic and steel for up to 72 hours. So that changes how you can act, and we’re trying to include all the relevant information.
Q: You said working on this project has brought you some of the most feel-good feelings you’ve had from journalism in a while. Why?
Nigel: It feels like a public service. You get to talk to people directly and say, “We know it’s bad, but here’s what can you do.”
Q: What’s most important for people to know right now?
Nigel: The most important thing for seniors to know is to get in touch with their Area Agencies on Aging as soon as possible. Make them aware that you’re there, you need or will need help, and you’re staying inside. To non-seniors who’ve lost their jobs, file for unemployment immediately. And to everyone: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I’ve been making a couple little runs for seniors in the neighborhood and you’d be amazed how many people need help but are too embarrassed to ask.
CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Like former California Gov. Pete Wilson, Newsom could spend most of his governorship as a crisis manager with his ambitious policy agenda on hold.