The state is days away from putting out guidelines for reopening churches, synagogues, and other houses of worship, Gov. Gavin Newsom said today in his regular update on the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control is expected to release its own guidelines today, and the state plans to review those in considering its own plans, which Newsom said will come Monday at the latest.
When asked about President Donald Trump’s call for churches to be reopened immediately, Newsom said that he expected to have a positive relationship with faith leaders as they work to reopen, and cited their plan to release guidelines soon.
More reopening guidelines will be coming out over the next few days, as well as into the latter part of next week, Newsom said — including guidelines for not just regional variation, but the state as a whole.
So far, 43 counties have put forward self-attestation health plans to move further into Phase 2 of reopening, with 45 expected by later this afternoon, Newsom said.
He noted that personal protective equipment will be an essential part of reopening businesses like salons, when that comes.
The state is continuing to work with school administrators around guidelines for reopening schools, including summer schools, Newsom said. Summer camp and summer school guidelines are still being worked on; it’s expected they’ll be made public within a week or so, Newsom said.
The governor asked people to be safe and thoughtful as they go out this Memorial Day weekend, encouraging people to observe local health guidelines and to wear masks where needed.
LATEST CORONAVIRUS NUMBERS — HOSPITALIZATIONS, ICU NUMBERS DROPPING
There were 88 deaths in the past day related to coronavirus, Newsom said. Hospitalizations and numbers in ICUs are declining in California, Newsom said — hospitalizations are down 7.5% over the past 14 days, ICU numbers down 6.1%.
So far, 1.5 million swab-based coronavirus tests have been conducted, Newsom said. Testing is averaging more than 45,000 tests per day, with the positivity rate holding steady. He noted that the total number of positives were expected to be up as testing increased, but the positivity rate is holding around 4.1% over the past week, compared with 4.4% over the past two weeks.
More testing is being conducted in rural areas and Northern California, as well as in diverse communities, Newsom said.
More than 86.4 million procedure masks havek been received by California, Newsom said. Those are being distributed not just in medical facilities, but to grocery employees and other essential workers.
TRAINING CONTACT TRACERS
Newsom talked about efforts to train more people to join the state’s nearly 3,000 existing contact tracers. The state is aiming for 10,000 tracers in its first phase, with a capacity to go up to about 18,000 in the next phase, Newsom said. There were 500 people in the state’s first training cohort, with 300 in the current cohort.
A new public service announcement program, California Connected, was announced by Newsom. He noted that it’s important for people to understand what it means when they are called by a contact tracer, so that people know that these efforts aren’t fraudulent.
CHALLENGE TO VOTE-BY-MAIL PLAN
On former Rep. Darrell Issa’s challenge of the state’s plan to expand vote-by-mail, Newsom said the state’s plan is on firm legal ground. He said that it’s the responsible thing to do in the context of the pandemic, especially considering expectations it could surge in November.
LOCAL HOSPITAL RESOURCES BEING STRETCHED
There are ongoing concerns in Imperial County, Newsom said, despite the county not being densely populated. The county’s hospitals are stretched due to the number of people with COVID-related concerns, and 70% of its ventilators were in use last week, Newsom said. Though ventilator availability improved slightly, the state is sending a team to the county, including a field medical facility with up to 125 beds, Newsom said.
Similar deployment in other areas may be issued in the future for communities that don’t have the resources needed to respond to the coronavirus and that have outbreaks, Newsom said.
PROTECTING VETERANS THIS MEMORIAL DAY
Newsom addressed the importance of Memorial Day ahead of the holiday weekend, speaking from the Veterans Home of California Yountville. He noted that coronavirus has affected veterans hospitals, but that this has not been the case in California, with only three infections in the state’s eight veterans hospitals.
California Secretary of Veterans Affairs Vito Imbasciani talked about when he first heard about COVID-19 in December, and the way the department handled the disease to protect veterans in congregate living. Veterans homes were largely locked down two weeks before the state’s stay-at-home orders, Imbasciani said, with 38 steps they followed to protect veterans.