Last week’s statewide shelter-in-place order was an attempt to not only slow the spread of the coronavirus but also to give hospitals a better chance of keeping up. Gov. Gavin Newsom threw California’s medical field another life raft Saturday in the form of $42 million in emergency funding.
The money will allow California to lease two hospitals, as well as secure more equipment to serve patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
As of Saturday, there were 1,426 coronavirus cases in California, including 646 in the Bay Area, and 24 people have died. The total number of cases is up 29% from Thursday’s 1,006 confirmed cases. At that point, there were 19 deaths. The latest figures from Johns Hopkins University show that global coronavirus cases have reached 300,000, with more than 12,900 deaths. U.S. cases have surpassed 22,000.
“California is mobilizing every part of government to support our health care delivery system, its workers and those among us who are most vulnerable to COVID-19,” Newsom said in a statement.
The state will lease Seton Medical Center in Daly City and St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles for three months for $30 million. Seton will expand capacity to offer 120 more beds for COVID-19 patients as soon as Wednesday. St. Vincent is expected to provide up to 366 beds.
It’s a significant turnaround for both hospitals, which are owned by Verity Health System. Verity filed for bankruptcy in 2018 and closed St. Vincent in January. Seton has been on the verge of closure ever since a potential sale fell through in late 2019 — this month, San Mateo County supervisors decided to contribute $20 million to help keep the hospital intact. Verity will reopen St. Vincent on behalf of the state, though no timeline was given.
The emergency funding will also bring $1.5 million to the state’s public health lab in Richmond to expand its capacity. Another $2 million will provide patient transportation through American Medical Response. And the state will spend more than $8.6 million on new ventilators and IV fusion pumps, in addition to refurbishing ventilators.
A nationwide shortage of protective gear for medical professionals has sparked an outcry for donations. Nurses protested Thursday outside a Kaiser Permanente hospital in San Francisco, saying they were forced to reuse masks because they’re running out. Some companies are responding quickly, like PG&E, which promised to donate nearly 1 million masks to hospital workers on Friday, and Facebook, which announced a donation of about 720,000 masks on Saturday.
In a Saturday news conference, Newsom said Tesla chief executive officer Elon Musk has pledged to provide 250,000 masks for health-care workers and has committed, with other companies, to produce 1,000 ventilators. Apple CEO Tim Cook is pledging 1 million masks, Newsom said.
In response to complaints about the lack of masks, President Trump promised on Saturday that more are coming quickly. The administration’s efforts are getting “tremendous reviews from many people who can’t believe how fast (masks) are coming,” Trump said.
Newsom announced that the state did, in fact, start receiving some equipment from the Strategic National Stockpile, including 358,381 N95 masks, which are the most protective, and 853,730 surgical masks.
But California needs much more. The state has already requested 20 million N95 masks, 10 million surgical masks and hundreds of thousands of surgical gowns, face shields and other protective gear.