Newsletter: The state’s math on hospital beds

Medical personnel screen patients outside the emergency room at Loma Linda University Health last week.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, March 24, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

On Monday afternoon, Gov. Gavin Newsom warned that California will need 50,000 hospital beds for coronavirus patients, an increase of 30,000 more beds than previously anticipated.

[Read the story: “Newsom says California needs 30,000 more hospital beds than anticipated for coronavirus patients” in the Los Angeles Times]


Newsom said the starkly increased numbers were the result of new modeling, which allows the state to figure out resource allocation based on what’s happening in real time across the state, as well the latest data and modeling from across the U.S. and around the world.

“We’re looking at bending the curve. We’re looking at interventions that work,” Newsom said. “As a consequence of updating our models, we are looking to significantly increase our procurement of assets, specifically beds, throughout our healthcare delivery system.”

How those numbers break down:

According to Newsom, California currently has shy of 75,000 licensed beds across the 416 hospitals in the state. Those hospitals are doubling their so-called “surge plans” to 40% of their capacity, which includes providing 30,000 new beds across the system. That will be done by looking in and around those existing facilities to house the additional beds, with Newsom citing outbuildings, parking lots and tents outside the hospitals as potential targets.

Externally, the state is looking to provide 20,000 additional beds outside the hospital system. The administration has already identified 3,000 of those beds through mobile hospital units sent from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, an agreement to lease an empty hospital near downtown Los Angeles and other plans.

So, where will the final 17,000 beds come from? “That’s where we’re identifying convention facilities, fairgrounds. We’re identifying specific assets throughout the state, including motels and hotels,” Newsom said.

A “soft closure” of state parks

During Monday’s press conference, Newsom also announced new action to encourage social-distancing measures, including closing parking lots at state parks. Many other localities around the state also continued to announce their closures of outdoor spaces or the parking lots around them.


[See also: “Here are the latest coronavirus restrictions on beaches, hiking trails, parks, recreation spaces” in the Los Angeles Times]

As of Monday night, there were more than 2,220 confirmed coronavirus cases in the state, with officials expecting that number to rise significantly amid aggressive new pushes to get more people tested. The statewide death toll now stands at 43, with two new deaths reported in Los Angeles County.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:


Community groups were alarmed after the L.A. City Council canceled meetings for the rest of March. Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez announced Monday that she has canceled council meetings scheduled for Tuesday and the following week, saying the city is not yet ready to conduct a remote meeting. The move alarmed labor unions, nonprofit groups and activists who had been hoping council members would act on a rent freeze and other forms of relief for those suffering during the pandemic. Los Angeles Times


The city of Los Angeles has expanded its temporary ban on evictions during the outbreak by prohibiting landlords from removing tenants from rent-stabilized apartments for the purposes of converting them to condominiums, Mayor Eric Garcetti said Monday afternoon. Los Angeles Times

Paradigm just became the first big talent agency to sign an agreement with the Writers Guild of America. Will it be a turning point in the Hollywood labor fight? Los Angeles Times

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U.S. troops remain at the southern border despite waning migration, as the coronavirus spreads elsewhere. Under the “national emergency” that President Trump declared in February 2019, roughly 5,200 troops remain at the U.S. southern border to assist in detecting undocumented migrants, though apprehensions are at the lowest levels in years. Los Angeles Times


Trump on Monday said he will extend the Oct. 1 deadline for people to apply for Real ID licenses to board domestic flights in the United States. Los Angeles Times

“I’m going to keep pushing.” A Q&A with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Science Magazine

Here is where the California National Guard is being deployed to battle the coronavirus: Officials said the Guard is being used purely for humanitarian purposes, such as distributing food and medical supplies as well as helping at food banks and working with officials on the Grand Princess cruise ship, which docked in California after an outbreak of the virus on board. Los Angeles Times

National Guard troops in Sacramento on Monday. The National Guard is helping to distribute food.
(State of California)

Oakland has a new interim police chief: Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has appointed former San Mateo Police Chief Susan Manheimer to the role. San Francisco Chronicle

The Medical Board of California is looking into “concierge” doctors selling COVID-19 tests while sick people around the country can’t get tested because of a nationwide shortage, a board spokesman said Monday morning. The inquiry comes after The Times reported that doctors who cater to rich people and celebrities have been selling testing to patients and their families, in some cases even if they have no symptoms or any other reason to be tested. Los Angeles Times


Pacific Gas & Electric has pleaded guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter related to the Camp fire. California’s most destructive wildfire burned much of Paradise, Calif., in 2018. PG&E said it reached the settlement with the Butte County district attorney’s office, and that under the deal prosecutors won’t pursue further criminal charges. Los Angeles Times


Criminal and civil trials were discontinued in California for at least two months after a sweeping order was issued by the state’s chief justice that aims to sharply cut down public traffic in state courthouses during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Los Angeles Times


“The worst is yet to come.” San Francisco officials warned that a surge in the coronavirus is expected to come within a week or two, and voiced dismay over images of the public crowding beaches and parks across California. Los Angeles Times


Fresno’s school superintendent has taken to YouTube for storytime. Seeking to comfort and engage young students, he uploads daily videos enthusiastically reading aloud from his rocking chair. Fresno Bee

San Francisco’s poshest hotels are competing for new clientele: quarantined SRO residents. “It’s a win-win scenario for the city, which needs more rooms, and struggling hotels, which need more money.” San Francisco Chronicle



Los Angeles: partly cloudy, 64. San Diego: partly sunny, 64. San Francisco: rain, 53. San Jose: rain, 57. Fresno: cloudy, 60. Sacramento: rain, 55. More weather is here.


Before we close, a brief interlude of optimism courtesy of Herb Fischer, an 81-year-old reader who lives in Palm Springs with his Australian Shepherd, Brody.

Fischer loves to play golf and would usually hit the local courses three or four times a week. But he’s obviously been staying home as of late, “following all the protocols to stay healthy.”

Missing the game, Fischer remembered that his late wife had gifted him with a Playstation 3 years ago. (Her rationale? If you’re going to play so much golf, you might as well play some at home.) The now-discontinued game console was still boxed up and hidden somewhere deep in his garage.


“I hooked it up, put in the Tiger Woods golf game and have been playing golf courses all around the world,” Fischer writes. He hasn’t left the house, but says “it’s almost as exciting” as being on the courses themselves. “Just a thought to show us seniors still can be creative.”

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.