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COVID-19 State Policy Update 05.07.20

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May 7, 2020

Today, Thursday May 7th, Governor Newsom began his daily briefing addressing the dramatic shift in California’s fiscal fortune brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Governor noted that last year, the state enjoyed a $21.4 billion-dollar surplus, which allowed the state to increase its reserves and plan to pay down its bond debt by $9 billion, which was favorable for the state’s bond rating. This year, just 90-days ago, the Department of Finance estimated a $6 billion-dollar surplus, the result of 120 consecutive months of economic growth and record employment numbers. The Governor noted that the state’s fortunes changed dramatically when the global pandemic hit, and the state now has a multi-billion-dollar shortfall. 

The Governor stated he believes the state is better positioned to recover from this deficit than in previous deficit years and he believes we will get through these challenges if the leadership in the federal government provides the support needed to recover from what has been a global pandemic affecting every state and many nations around the world. The Governor reiterated his appreciation to federal leaders and the president for their bi-partisan efforts thus far, noting the CARES Act has been enormously beneficial to the state, but more help is needed to fully recover. He also noted that this is about more than the state, “this is about local economies, local businesses—it’s about teachers, healthcare workers, law enforcement and firefighters—they are the real victims of this shortfall and we need to protect them, because now more than ever, their personal finances have been greatly affected by this crisis.” He said he believes the great capacity we have for creativity and ingenuity will spur everyone on to recover and rebuild the state—even during this time of great stress.

The Governor went on to discuss the reopening of the economy and the promised published guidelines that will direct businesses in how to modify their functions to enter into Stage 2. He also addressed the request from some counties to go further into Stage 2 and beyond, noting that by next Tuesday more detailed guidelines will be published to help those local officials plan for that goal.  He reminded the audience that the ability to enter into Stage 2 and beyond is predicated on reaching key milestones in the State’s Pandemic Road Map read more about it here.   He stated again that all decisions to move forward or throttle back at any time are based on data and noted that real-time monitoring and reporting will guide all decisions at the local and state level.

You can find the Governor’s press release on the Stage 2 guidelines here. The specific guidelines at this link here.

The Governor stated the progress in developing the guidelines was made in consultation with public health officials and the Jobs and Recovery Task Force and Advisors, which includes 100 leaders from some of the largest and most successful organizations in the state and beyond. He publicly thanked the Task Force and the Advisors for their counsel and their wisdom in helping shape guidelines that will allow the state to move into Stage 2 with businesses making necessary modifications and variations. 

Stage 2 Guidelines

The Governor reminded the audience the state launched a new test location site, (find the site here) which allows people to find one of the 86 COVID-19 testing centers throughout the state. Read about the testing centers here.  Governor Newsom reiterated the first cohort began training yesterday, as they spent the day getting registered for the Virtual Academy, led by UCSF and UCLA, and that in a fairly short period of time “an army of disease detectives” will supplement workforce of contact tracers in local communities. He noted again their work, recording and reporting in real time will guide decision-making at the local and state level regarding progress through Stage 2 and beyond. If this goes well and the disease curve continues to flatten and the data support advancing further into Stage 2, the Governor stated, “we may move to include sit-down dining, outdoor museums, and car washes, to name a few, but that includes making sure we have personal protective equipment (PPE) for employees, healthcare workers, transit, grocery and logistics workers.”

We will monitor in real time, do all we can to partner with the counties and some may see some variations to move more deeply into Stage 2. Some may see these modifications and variations as impediments, but we see them as common-sense public health requisites. We have some answers, but not all the answers and we look forward to deliberation and discussion on these topics.”

The Governor noted that a local community’s effort and desire to move forward is predicated on self-certification in concurrence with their public health official, their Board of Supervisors, with the hospital system, and with all of the tough questions regarding PPE and the protection of vulnerable populations answered. The Governor concluded his opening remarks by introducing Secretary of Health and Human Services Agency Dr. Mark Ghaley to present a detailed explanation of the guidelines for entering Stage 2. 

Dr. Ghaley began by stating “the beginning of Stage 2 is NOT a return to normal. COVID-19 is still spreading. We will gradually reopen the economy as long as we can reduce the spread of the virus.” He noted Stage 2 starts with retail, manufacturing and logistics and presented a slide which detailed what is required in each workplace for it to operate within the Stage 2 guidelines. He reminded the audience the start of Stage 2 does NOT include sit-down dining, shopping malls, or offices—at this time. Dr. Ghaley reiterated the points made by Governor Newsom that moving though Stage 2 requires real time monitoring and reporting and not until officials are confident the virus is not spreading (within the disease guidelines set by the Department of Public Health) will the economy open further.

Dr. Ghaley stated they are building a team to serve as technical advisors to local officials in the counties, but reminded the audience, the surveillance, testing, monitoring, tracing, and quarantine will be led by local officials. He also noted the standards required for local jurisdictions to open their economy more deeply into Stage 2 and beyond.

Governor Newsom returned to the podium to follow-up on Dr. Ghaley’s comments, stating the administration is “striving to be flexible and this is an iterative and deliberative process.” The Governor concluded his remarks by noting 70% of the state’s economy has been impacted by COVID-19 and the new reality is that simply opening business under these guideline does not guarantee success, because customer confidence will determine ultimate success.

Q&A

Media questions ranged from how the state determines contract procurement to what sports look like might (which for sports fans, the comments were not very encouraging), as the state moves forward.

The Governor also addressed the guidelines as they relate to opening churches, and stated:

“As it relates to churches…A few weeks back, we added guidelines and clarified for faith based leaders, I had a series of phone calls and zoom calls and conferences with faith based leaders maintaining that in the current phase one, that they can continue as essential, the incredible work that they do serving the community, our homeless, our seniors and our children, again, with the guidelines we put out in childcare that is provided by many faith leaders across the state. So, there are substantial augmentations that were already made in that space for faith communities.

"Our fear is simply this, congregations of people mixing from far and wide, coming together, proximate in an enclosed space at large scales is a point of obvious concern and anxiety. It’s not unique to the state of California. But know that we are already working on guidelines for physical distancing and working with faith leaders, looking at the unique conditions that exist and reside within their own facilities that may make some further accommodations in that space happen earlier.

"So again, none of this is etched in stone. I’m very sensitive. I grew up the church… I don’t want to overdo it here, but we say grace every night before dinner with the family. I take very seriously those concerns about people of faith and know that I’m very sensitive to those that want to get back into church and into these facilities. We’re going to see what we can do to accommodate that, but the health of those communities is foundational as well.”

Governor Newsom issued a proclamation declaring today as a Day of Prayer. You can find his proclamation here

Key milestones – COVID-19 number – as of today (5.7.20):

  • More than 2,504 deaths up 3.8%   
  • 60,614 positive cases, up 3.1% 
  •  842,874 tests conducted. Still averaging over 30k daily
  • Hospitalizations decreased by 15 (-.04%) to 3,319
    • The majority of hospitalizations are in LA County 1,790, followed by San Diego County at 308; 216 in Orange County; 197 in Riverside; 167 in San Bernardino; 78 in Alameda; 76 in San Francisco; and 73 in Santa Clara
  • ICU – 1,125, down by 15 (-1.5%)