In summary

Newsom lands deal for 200 million masks per month for health care workers, says coronavirus cases may peak in mid to late May.

Good morning, California. It’s Wednesday, April 8.

New deal means 200 million masks / month for CA and maybe other states

Screenshot of Gov. Newsom talking with Rachel Maddow on MSNBC on April 7.

In a surprise announcement on MSNBC Tuesday night, Gov. Gavin Newsom said California will soon begin receiving shipments of 200 million medical-grade masks per month, enough to meet the needs of the state and potentially those “of other Western states” as well.

The announcement marked a striking change from just a few weeks ago, when the state said it was in dire need of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care workers and ventilators for patients. But in recent days, Newsom has expressed confidence in California’s supply levels. On Monday, he sent the federal government 500 ventilators, and now it seems the state will soon have an excess of masks.

  • Newsom on the Rachel Maddow show: “We’ve been competing against other states, against other nations, against our own federal government, for PPE. We’re not waiting around any longer. … In the last 48 hours, we have secured through a consortia of nonprofits and a manufacturer here in the state of California, upwards of 200 million masks on a monthly basis.
  • “We’re confident we can supply the needs of the state of California, potentially the needs of other Western states. … We decided enough is enough, let’s use the purchasing power of the state of California as a nation-state. We did just that.”

How much purchasing power, exactly? According to a California Department of Finance letter, the state will make a down payment of $495 million, with a projected total cost of $990 million.

Newsom’s office did not name the nonprofit or companies involved in the deal, saying details would be forthcoming at a press conference today. One of the companies that has been a major supplier of masks and PPE nationally and internationally throughout the coronavirus crisis, including in California, is Santa Barbara-based Direct Relief. A spokesman for the company said Tuesday evening that it has been in touch with the governor’s office.

Newsom said the masks will be manufactured overseas and were sourced through the nonprofits and California manufacturer with “appropriate contacts in Asia.”

According to the Department of Finance letter, the state will also work with the federal government to “obtain and strategically place sterilization units across the state so that we can clean and re-use PPE such as N95 masks.”

A back-to-work blood test?

Researchers are trying to develop a blood test that would indicate who has immunity to COVID-19. Image via iStock

Although Newsom called blood-based coronavirus tests “foundational, fundamental” in determining when Californians can go back to work, medical experts warn it’s not clear whether the tests are reliable enough to shape public policy, CalMatters’ Rachel Becker reports.

These are not tests to determine if someone has the virus. The blood-based tests gauge if someone has developed antibodies, or an immune response, to the virus. But even if someone has antibodies, that doesn’t guarantee the person’s current or long-term immunity.

Newsom said Tuesday that the FDA cleared a Stanford University antibody test, adding that part of the state’s strategy will be “moving to blood-based tests” and that it will “start small, but you’ll see incremental improvements in that testing modality.”

Starting small may be the key, as the state tries to balance competing needs:

  • David Pride, associate director of UCSD’s clinical microbiology lab: “We can know the answers eventually. But what are we going to do three months from now? What are we going to tell people — stay at home, or go out?”

Also on Tuesday: California Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris rolled out stress playbooks to help manage anxiety related to the pandemic. The state also has 16 hotlines and text lines if you need mental health services.

  • More on mental health: On Thursday, April 9 at 1 p.m., CalMatters talks online with therapists Amy Ahfield and Mark Levine about how to maintain mental health during the epidemic. Register here and submit questions here.

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The Bottom Line: As of 11:30 p.m. Tuesday night, California had 17,620 confirmed coronavirus cases and 450 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. We’re also tracking the state’s daily actions in response to coronavirus.

Other stories you should know

1. So when exactly is California going to peak?

Health care workers demonstrate “flattening the curve.” Image via iStock

Well — depends on whom you ask. Newsom said Tuesday the state expects a peak in coronavirus patients in mid to late May, adding that while the curve is bending in California, it’s also stretching as infection rates grow at a slower pace. Yet a new analysis from the University of Washington, which officials use to inform their models, predicts that if Californians continue to shelter in place, daily deaths will peak on April 17 and the state will have 1,783 deaths total, compared with an earlier prediction of 6,109. Meanwhile, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti predicts a peak in his city — one of the hardest-hit — in two to five weeks. LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer: “If you have enough supplies in your home, this would be the week to skip shopping.”

2. Bernie Sanders won California, but California’s influence lost

Sen. Bernie Sanders at a February campaign event at the Craneway Pavilion in Richmond. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

Remember California’s primary election last month? Although Bernie Sanders won the state with roughly 36% of the popular vote compared with Joe Biden’s 28%, California’s influence lost, CalMatters’ Ben Christopher reports. Despite the state’s attempt to exert more influence by moving its primary from June to March, Biden is leading nationwide by hundreds of delegates. And as for the 2018 blue wave that flipped half of California’s Republican-held congressional districts and propelled Democrats to 75% of the seats in both chambers of the state Legislature? There are signs it could return in November, with one caveat: Republicans could turn out in higher numbers.

3. California bans all evictions, regardless of relation to pandemic

The state Judicial Council on Monday barred courts from enforcing eviction orders against renters for any cause, The San Francisco Chronicle reports. The measure goes further than Newsom’s previous executive order banning evictions only for renters financially afflicted by the epidemic, and will remain in effect until 90 days after the state of emergency, exempting only those who threaten public health and safety. “This gets us the breathing room” for tenants that “we really need,” said Sasha Harnden, policy advocate for the Western Center on Law and Poverty.

CalMatters commentary

Let’s be strategic about sheltering in place: Now that our understanding of how the coronavirus spreads is improving, it’s time to rethink our stay-at-home policy and let data drive a more limited, focused response, argues Dr. Jeffrey D. Klausner, a UCLA professor of medicine and public health.

Coping with our new reality: As online meetings, conference calls, texts and emails become the new norm, I’ve realized how much I miss communicating with people face-to-face, writes Michael Miller, director of government relations for the California Association of Winegrape Growers.

Other things worth your time

Video: How California plans to help small businesses stay afloat. // CalMatters

A look inside San Francisco’s first coronavirus hospital unit. // The San Francisco Chronicle

San Francisco and San Jose pass paid sick leave ordinances for all workers not covered by the federal stimulus package. // The San Francisco Chronicle

Federal judge in San Francisco: Lyft drivers should be employees, but their lawsuit is flawed. // The San Francisco Chronicle

How coronavirus is changing the public’s access to local government. // The Orange County Register

Why are people having more vivid dreams during the coronavirus pandemic? // The Los Angeles Times

Commentary: “Calexit” was trending on Twitter again. Here’s why it’s a bad idea. // The Sacramento Bee

Why is everyone so obsessed with baking sourdough bread during the pandemic? // The San Francisco Chronicle

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See you tomorrow.

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Emily Hoeven writes the daily WhatMatters newsletter for CalMatters. Her reporting, essays, and opinion columns have been published in San Francisco Weekly, the Deseret News, the San Francisco Business...