California Gov. Gavin Newsom gave an update on the wildfires burning throughout the state Monday, but also touched on testing rates, employment issues, homelessness and combating climate change.
At this time last year, around 157,000 acres had burned, Newsom said. This year more than 3.6 million acres have burned and 27 major wildfires are still going. So far this year 26 people have died in 7,982 fires and more than 5,400 structures have been destroyed, he said.
“Five of the top 10 most [destructive] wildfires in our state’s history are continuing to burn with some real progress on some of those large complexes,” he said.
When asked about his plans about increasing California’s actions to combat climate change, Newsom said announcements will be made in the coming weeks and months, but decarbonizing the California economy will take effort from the legislature as well regulatory agencies.
“We are committed to exercising appropriately our resolve to do more,” he said, “and to begin the process of changing the way we produce and consume energy.”
Newsom said wildfires were also affecting COVID-19 testing across the state, as smoke from fires and the heat wave limited testing. He says testing is slowly on the rise while positivity rates are on the decline. He also says the state is committed to building a lab to increase and expedite testing.
“We are committed to testing in the state of California,” he said. “We are not retreating from our testing responsibilities.”
Hospitalizations are also declining at a consistent rate over the past month, he said, and there’s been a 23% percent decrease in COVID-19 related hospitalizations over the past two weeks.
But Newsom says there’s a threat later this year of the flu and COVID-19 becoming a “twindemic” which could overwhelm hospitals if the flu isn’t also taken seriously by the public.
“We want to avoid that,” he explained. “Get a flu shot.”
He says further information on the flu may come later in the week and Tuesday there will be an update over the tier system across California counties.
Newsom also announced a second round of awards — $236 million for 20 projects or 1,810 units across 12 jurisdictions and one tribe — to help house people experiencing homelessness. A first round of $76.6 million was announced last week for seven projects. It’s all part of California’s Project Homekey program aimed at helping people experiencing homelessness who are at high risk for serious illness from COVID-19.
“We have a moral and ethical obligation to address this issue head-on,” Newsom said. “Shelters solve sleep. Housing and supportive services, we believe, begins to more substantively and permanently address homelessness.”
Newsom also focused on employment issues during COVID-19. He offered an optimistic outlook on the Employment Development Department's ability to improve its handling of unemployment benefits, despite facing a backlog of over 1.5 million claimants waiting to be processed. The governor's "strike team" task force released a report late Saturday detailing the extent of the backlog and recommended changes.
Watch live at 12 p.m. as California Gov. Gavin Newsom provides an update on COVID-19and wildfires in the state.
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