Gov. Newsom directing $42 million in emergency funding to lease hospitals, get supplies amid coronavirus pandemic

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Gov. Gavin Newsom is directing more than $42 million in emergency funding to expand California’s health care system Saturday as hospitals brace for a flood of patients amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The state will be using $30 million of the amount to lease Seton Medical Center in Daly City and St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles’ Westlake district on a three-month basis, according to the governor's office.

While the hospital in Daly City is already staffed, the government will be working to bring staff to the recently shuttered L.A. hospital, which will provide care for up to 366 COVID-19 patients, Newsom said at a news conference Saturday.

"That's about a thousand beds that we have able to procure in just the last number of days," the governor said.

Newsom also announced that the federal government is sending eight field medical units into the state, which will provide another 2,000 beds for coronavirus patients.

The state will be helping to bring doctors and nurses out of retirement to help staff hospitals amid the public health emergency.

Among all of California's hospitals, the state has a staffed bed capacity of 78,000, but it still needs an additional 19,500 beds to meet projections, the governor said.

Over $1.4 million of the emergency funding will be used to expand testing capacity at a state public health lab in Richmond, American Medical Response will get $2 million to provide COVID-19 patient transportation and another $8.6 million will be used to buy new ventilators, refurbish old ones and get IV fusion pumps.

One company, Bloom Energy, has already started repurposing old ventilators, completing a job that would have taken months in just hours, Newsom said Saturday. Ventilators are necessary for COVID-19 patients in serious condition.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has promised to donate 1 million masks to the state in addition to the $2 million masks Vice President Mike Pence has already promised. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is also working to see if his companies can provide components for ventilators while also pledging to provide 250,000 additional masks and 1,000 ventilators, Newsom said.

The state this week started receiving shipments of hundreds of thousands of N95 and surgical masks, face shields, surgical gowns and gloves from the national stockpile, and California has already requested millions more, according to Newsom's office.

Two million swabs and 200,000 RNA extraction kits were also requested from the stockpile.

“California is mobilizing every part of government to support our health care delivery system, its workers, and those among us who are most vulnerable to COVID-19,” Newsom said in a statement.

The state had 21 million face masks in reserve and almost half were distributed to healthcare workers and first responders in the past week, according to the governor.

California had at least 23 coronavirus-related deaths and 1,224 confirmed cases as of Friday, according to the California Department of Public Health.

As of Friday, 25,200 people had been tested for the coronavirus in California, and results for more than half of the tests were still pending, according to the agency.

Newsom said that the state will be using "targeted testing" to learn more about the spread of the virus as testing supplies remain scarce.

"We want to know what the spread is. We want to know if we are bending the curve. We want to know if our stay-at-home orders are effective,” the governor said.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday ordered 40 million Californians to stay home and only go outside for errands like getting food or medical care or if they are considered essential workers.

The governor said that residents have so far been doing a good job staying home and that "social pressure" will push Californians to stay inside and he doesn't believe a law enforcement response will be needed to enforce the order.

As businesses close, unemployment claims have surged in the past week, with 114,000 filed Friday in comparison to 40,000 just six days before, according to the governor.

Meanwhile, there has also been thousands of new job openings at grocery stores as retailers like Walmart, Stater Bros. and Trader Joe's deal with increased demand.

Newsom on Saturday also assured residents that the state is working on finding shelter for the state's homeless to protect them from the virus and to curb its spread.

Local governments across the state have secured 2,400 hotel rooms to house the homeless in seven counties, 1,900 of them in San Diego County alone.

But the state needs 51,000 hotel rooms to shelter tens of thousands of homeless people across the state, according to the governor.

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