Battling coronavirus, California distributing millions of face masks to healthcare providers

California announced that it is going to start distributing to healthcare providers struggling under the strain of the coronavirus millions of N95 face masks that had been stockpiled in emergency reserves.

The move is considered a key step is getting needed equipment to California hospitals, which are already under strain as possible coronavirus cases increase.

Health officials stressed that they are not recommending healthy people wear masks, which are in short supply. “However, masks are recommended to limit the spread of disease for people who are exhibiting respiratory symptoms,” the state said.


Officials are worried that hospitals could be overwhelmed as coronavirus cases increase and that health workers could be placed at risk. They said the masks will provide key protection.

“California is working hard to ensure our healthcare system is in the strongest possible position to respond to this evolving situation,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom in a statement. “Critical to that effort is making sure healthcare workers have the medical masks and protective equipment they need to protect themselves while caring for patients. Our state is extremely grateful for the hard work and dedication of our healthcare workers in this time of expanded need.”

California is also speeding up testing of possible coronavirus patients. This more aggressive testing “may lead to a more rapid increase in the number of confirmed cases reported. That is not necessarily a sign that the rate of infection is increasing, but that our ability to test more people more rapidly is leading to better detection.”

The West Coast continues to bear the brunt of the illnesses in the U.S., with the focus on Northern California and Washington.

At least five Northern California counties reported new cases of COVID-19 on Monday. On Tuesday, the city of Berkeley reported its first case of coronavirus after an individual visited a country with an outbreak. That individual has remained at home in a self-imposed quarantine since returning.

“While the risk of infection remains low, the expanded presence of the virus in our community is a reality we should all prepare for,” said Berkeley Health Officer Dr. Lisa Hernandez. “There are steps that all of us in the community can take now to improve basic hygiene and also prepare for a wider spread in the future.

Several areas in California have declared local emergencies amid the outbreak. Sonoma County on Monday issued a declaration after announcing two people had been diagnosed with the virus. One infected person returned from a cruise to Mexico 10 days ago and was hospitalized, but the case “is a cause for concern,” said county health officer Dr. Celeste Philip.

Declaring a state of emergency will allow the county to respond properly to the outbreak as well as “work in tandem with our cities and healthcare providers to ensure we are prepared to combat an outbreak of COVID-19 in our communities,” Philip said in a statement.

Meanwhile, two new COVID-19 cases were reported in Santa Clara County, bringing its total to nine, the most of any California county. Both individuals are under home isolation, officials said.