Officials are not ready to set a date for when the statewide stay-at-home order can be lifted, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday. But some progress has been made on testing availability, putting California slightly closer to reopening.
The governor said he wished he could provide a timeframe but emphasized that “there is no light switch, and there is no date, in terms of our capacity, to provide the kind of clarity that I know so many of you demand.”
“No one wants to be able to share that information more with you than I do,” Newsom asserted.
As in other states, California has seen a number of anti-lockdown protests pressuring authorities to reopen businesses amid the rising number of unemployment.
Part of California’s roadmap to reopening is the expansion of COVID-19 testing, one of six key goals Newsom announced last week.
According to authorities, testing would enable the state to support those who are ill and track down who may have been exposed—thereby containing the virus that has taken at least 1,354 lives in California.
By the end of March, California averaged about 2,000 daily tests. Now, the daily average is 16,000, bringing the number of people tested to more than 465,000.
Newsom believes that with hundreds of sites now offering swab-based testing, and resources President Donald Trump promised Wednesday, up to 60,000 to 80,000 tests can be conducted per day.
“I want to thank the president, not only for being available for a phone call at a moment’s notice, but being willing to directly commit to all of us in the state of California to a substantial increase in supply of the swabs. That will go a long way to give us all more confidence that we can meet some of these testing goals,” Newsom said.
With this progress, California is now advising that some asymptomatic individuals such as health care workers, first responders and correctional workers get tested—the first state to make the recommendation.
While not all 40 million Californians will be tested, authorities want to ensure that no communities—especially in rural and low-income areas—are left behind, according to the governor.
The decision to reopen retail stores and recreational sites will rely upon the state’s ability to learn who has COVID-19 and trace those who may have come in contact with them, Newsom said.
In addition to swab-based tests, California is also ramping up efforts to make antibody testing more available in order to learn how much of the population may have already fought off the coronavirus and therefore may have immunity.
This could potentially identify individuals who can reenter the workforce with a low risk of getting others infected, according to USC, which is leading the research in Southern California.
In addition to testing efforts, the governor also announced that California is prepared to begin scheduling surgeries after consulting with health care experts in Oregon and Washington state. It’s the first time the state eased rules under the stay-at-home order that has been in effect since March 19.
“We are working with our health directors and throughout the health care delivery system to reintroduce the capacity to get these scheduled surgeries up and running again, we will be very thoughtful and judicious about how we do that,” Newsom said.
The governor also acknowledged the news late Tuesday that the two earliest-known COVID-19 U.S. deaths occurred in Santa Clara County in February, which suggests that the coronavirus may have started spreading there in mid-January or earlier.
The state has directed coroner’s officials to analyze deaths as far back as December to determine when the pandemic reached California, Newsom said.