Gov. Gavin Newsom announced new action on Monday to encourage social-distancing measures, including closing parking lots at state parks, and warned that California will need more than twice as many hospital beds for coronavirus patients than previously anticipated.
The governor said he was closing parking lots in an effort to prevent people from congregating at California’s outdoor recreational areas and unintentionally spreading the virus.
His announcement came four days after he ordered all residents to remain in their homes, making California the first state in the nation to place such restrictions on the movement of its residents.
As of Monday, 40 people have died and 2065 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the state.
“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.”
Newsom said he believes California will need 50,000 hospital beds for coronavirus patients, a significant increase from the 20,000 beds his administration had forecast last week. The Democratic governor said the state’s 416 hospitals were doubling so-called “surge plans” to 40% of their capacity, which includes providing 30,000 new beds across the system.
At the same time, the state is securing an additional 20,000 beds outside the state hospital system. Newsom said his administration had identified 3,000 new 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, but still needs another 17,000 beds.
Under Newsom’s stay-at-home executive order announced last Thursday, Californians are allowed to venture outside for necessities and for recreational purposes, but are required to stay at least six feet away from one another.
Despite millions of residents heeding the call, reports of noncompliance prompted local officials to admonish people and take additional action over the weekend.
A thick crowd of shoppers at a farmers’ market in Sacramento on Saturday made it nearly impossible for people to stay a safe distance from one another. Laguna Beach officials closed beaches and blocked trail access to county wilderness parks in response to growing alarm about people amassing on the city’s pristine coastline.
While anyone who defies Newsom’s order could be punished with a misdemeanor, the first-term Democrat has repeatedly said that he doesn’t believe law enforcement intervention is necessary. Newsom said his administration is conducting a public awareness campaign and he believes that “social pressure” will encourage people to remain at home.
President Trump granted Newsom’s request on Sunday to declare a major disaster in California to help the state respond to the COVID-19 pandemic with emergency medical aid and unemployment assistance.
Newsom declared his own state of emergency in California on March 4 to help the state prepare for the spread of the coronavirus. At the time, the California Department of Public Health reported that 53 people had tested positive and one had died from the virus.