California’s battle to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus has been joined by some of the state’s most prominent technology companies, Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Saturday, while its health officials are looking to pay new attention to what he called “targeted” testing of the state’s residents.
In an afternoon update, Newsom said the ramp-up of testing should include gauging the effectiveness of state and local efforts to get a handle on community-acquired infections.
“We need to have, I think, a different conversation in this country around testing,” Newsom said in a briefing streamed live on social media. “And that is smart testing, targeted testing. And really delineate what is the purpose of testing.”
California, like other states hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, has seen a shortage of complete testing kits. Those challenges have hindered the ability of public health officials to get an accurate assessment of the virus’ spread. Newsom, who said he has had encouraging conversations with President Trump on additional federal help, said coronavirus testing needs to do more than just document the numbers of ailing state residents.
“My team is no longer providing me just the number of people that have tested positive. They’re equally weighting the number of people that have tested negative,” Newsom said. “The bottom line for us is we want to know what the spread is. We want to know if we’re bending the curve. We want to know if our stay-at-home orders are effective.”
The governor pointed to efforts in Los Angeles, Orange and Santa Clara counties to use testing as a form of what he called “community surveillance” to better understand local health conditions.
“These were just broad random tests that were done with people that were otherwise young and healthy and thought they were perfectly healthy,” Newsom said.
The results, he said, allowed health officials to improve their use of already scarce medical resources.
Newsom, who has made late afternoon or evening updates to Californians a semi-regular occurrence in recent days, also praised offers of help from tech industry leaders and other business executives across the state. He said Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple, has pledged one million medical masks to be donated specifically to California’s coronavirus efforts. And he said manufacturers in Los Angeles’ garment district and in Northern California had reached out to sew additional masks if needed.
A key need in California and across the country is ventilators, necessary for some of the most serious COVID-19 patients, and the governor cited new efforts by two entrepreneurs to assist in producing the medical equipment. Newsom said that Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, Inc. and Space X, has promised to use the supply chains that support his companies for help in assembling ventilators. The governor also said that K.R. Sridhar, the CEO of Bloom Energy, agreed to help quickly modernize some 200 older ventilators that the state has on hand. The original manufacturer, Newsom said, had estimated doing so would take about a month.
“K.R. sent me a photo today, I’m not making this up, of 24 specific ventilators that he got done in just a few hours,” the governor said. “You’re already seeing this manifest certainly in the state of California and I’ve got to imagine that it’s replicated in other parts of the country.”