Of the states hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, California trails behind New York. To date, there are slightly more than 16,000 cases — around an eighth of New York’s total — and far fewer deaths, at less than 400.
But the worst for California may still be ahead: The number of cases is rising rapidly in the Central Valley and in Los Angeles — where the county public health director recommended people skip trips to the supermarket this week.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom talks to NPR’s Ari Shapiro about how the state will prepare for the weeks ahead as well as its contributions to national efforts.
You’re building makeshift hospitals all over the state. You gave your speech yesterday in one of them, an old basketball arena. Can you give us an idea of what that looks like statewide, where are you putting all these beds?
Everywhere we can find a location. It was ideal, we found an old arena that the Sacramento Kings used to play in. It will provide up to 400 beds. … It will be up and running just in days. It’s one of many assets all up and down the state we’ve been able to identify. We’ve had the ability now to lock down 4,613 additional care sites … to help decompress the hospital system and allow for the surge of patients.
Even as you’re preparing for a surge, you are lending hundreds of ventilators to the national stockpile. Are you confident that if your state does have this spike in cases as projected, you will have the resources you need?
I am confident in this respect. What we’ve been successful at doing in the state of California is bending the curve, buying us time. We’re seeing modest and moderate growth on a daily basis. We’re seeing incremental increases, tragically, in the loss of lives, the number of positives. But … the number of people ending up in our hospitals, in our ICUs, when we look at the totality of our ventilators and our inventory, and we look at the modeling over the course of last month and we look forward in the next few weeks, we’re confident that we can lend a hand to others in need, not just on the ventilators, but potentially with procurement opportunities to do more to provide N95 masks, gowns, coveralls and other personal protective gear.
What do you think made California more successful at slowing the increase in cases than other states have been?
At this stage, it’s still too early. I mean, by any stretch of the imagination. … The reality is, though, we were the first state to do the stay-at-home order. Even before we did the stay-at-home order, we had a stay-at-home order for all of our seniors, 5.3 million seniors, 65 and over. And … we were one of the first to deal with [the coronavirus crisis] by bringing back these repatriated flights from overseas back in January, where we had six flights. … That highlighted the issue and really brought our energies and focus to bear, perhaps a little bit earlier than some others.