On Wednesday Gov. Gavin Newsom addressed the possible reopening of California schools, but said rising COVID-19 positivity test rates and hospitalizations could hinder any plans to do so.
The topic has been a center of conversation since recent calls by the Trump administration to reopen schools in the fall.
When asked about what support he needs from the federal government financially to reopen schools, Newsom made it clear that his main concern is safety. He said that it's "non-negotiable," but so is starting some form of learning at the beginning of the school year.
“We are procuring more PPE to provide even more support for our educational system, not just K-12, but our preschools and obviously our system of higher education as well to help support their efforts,” said Newsom. “That’s why we have to continue to do more on face shields, masks, gloves, and gowns and deep sanitization and other procurements which is foundational in terms of safely reopening the schools.”
The discussion comes as COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased 44% in the state the past few weeks. Although there are alternative sites and beds for hospitalized patients, smaller counties such as Sutter don't have as much access as larger counties like Los Angeles.
California also had one one of the largest single-day increases in cases Tuesday at 11,694. Newsom emphasized, however, that this is a backlog number from laboratories in Los Angeles County, with a possibility that number may drop below 10,000 cases.
Newsom noted cases are increasing because not enough people are wearing masks and practicing social distancing, increased mixing outside of households, essential workplace outbreaks and prison and jail outbreaks.
He urged Californians to be cognizant about what's happening and wear masks to mitigate the spread of the virus. It will be how people chose to conduct themselves and their behavior that influences when California can relax stay-at-home measures.
Newsom shared that the state supply of masks has grown since March, when he called the supply "inadequate." He also highlighted how California was able to obtain 21 million N95 masks largely due to former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“As we quickly learned, 21 million masks may sound like a lot, it turned out to be a very modest number,” said Newsom.
As of Wednesday, California has 232 million additional procedure masks for hospital patients beyond what’s already been distributed, and 46 million N95 masks.
Newsom said he was confident enough in the state's supply to distribute masks to four other states: Alaska, Arizona, Oregon, Washington.
Although there has been a major increase in the supply of masks since March 19, there has also been a major increase in cases in recent weeks. Newsom reminded everyone that when the stay-at-home order was put in place on March 19, more than 60% of the economy was still fully operational in a “modified sense.”
"A lot of those essential workers put their lives, their health on the line and these are the food workers, farmworkers … folks in the grocery stores … a lot of them truly represent the diversity in the state of California," Newsom said. "I just want to acknowledge that essential workforce, overrepresenting the black and brown community for being there when we needed them the most."
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