Trump approves declaration of major disaster in California over coronavirus

California Governor Gavin Newsom
Gov. Gavin Newsom, in requesting a declaration of a major emergency, said the COVID-19 pandemic has “strained California’s resources and impacted California’s healthcare delivery system.”
(Alejandro Tamayo / San Diego Union-Tribune)

President Trump approved a request Sunday from Gov. Gavin Newsom to declare a major disaster in California to help the state respond to the COVID-19 pandemic with “mass care,” emergency aid, unemployment assistance and disaster legal services, among others.

“Unfortunately, California has been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19,” Newsom wrote to Trump. “Besides California being home to nearly 40 million people, which itself poses significant logistical issues few other states face, California partnered with the federal government in several extremely complex and challenging repatriation missions, which strained California’s resources and impacted California’s healthcare delivery system.”

Newsom noted in the letter that he has issued 10 executive orders in the last week to facilitate a quick response to the outbreak.

Eerie photos and stunning aerial shots show what California looks like under Gov. Newsom’s “stay at home” order.

March 21, 2020


“Thank you for recognizing that without the additional resources requested, impacts will be felt throughout the nation, as well as around the world, and thank you for your concern and leadership during this difficult time in our state,” Newsom’s letter concluded.

The president said the Federal Emergency Management Agency would be shipping mobile hospital units to the state within the next 48 hours. California is in line to get eight of them for a total of 2,000 beds. New York and Washington states will get 1,000 beds each, he said.

And the Navy hospital ship Mercy, which is based in San Diego, will be deployed to Los Angeles, he said. The ship can be stationed in L.A. in “a week or less,” FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor said. It would not be used to treat COVID-19 patients but will accept other patients in an attempt to relieve the burden on hospitals, Gaynor said.

Trump also announced that he has signed paperwork to have the federal government pay for National Guard deployments in California, New York and Washington.

The National Guard will remain under the control of state governments, but the federal government will cover the cost, as is typical in disaster scenarios.

Newsom on Friday deployed the California National Guard to assist food banks statewide that are serving residents whose needs have left unmet because of supply chain problems and temporary shortages during the pandemic.


The rapid-fire announcements came as Los Angeles County on Sunday reported an additional death related to the virus that causes COVID-19, the county’s fifth. The Culver City resident was older than 65 and had underlying health conditions, the county Department of Public Health said.

The county recorded 71 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 409; 132 of those were announced in the last 48 hours. Eighty-four people have been hospitalized, public health officials said.

“Please know that the actions you take today to stay 6 feet away from others and limit all non-essential activities outside your home are the best way for us to slow the spread of COVID-19 and save lives,” Barbara Ferrer, the county public health director, said in a statement.

Riverside County on Sunday also reported another death related to the virus, the sixth there. Information about the person who died was not immediately available.