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No date to ease California restrictions, but increased testing announced

newsom presser

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KION)

California Governor Gavin Newsom says the state needs to greatly increase its COVID-19 testing and tracing abilities in order to ease stay at home restrictions, following state and federal government guidelines.

There was some good news Wednesday, however, as Newsom announced hospitals can continue scheduled surgeries, including those that are not emergencies.

The newly allowed list includes procedures for tumors, heart valves and chronic disease. The change does not include cosmetic surgeries.

With this announcement Newsom says the effort to get closer to normal life is a "dimmer" and not a light switch, indicating once again that moves will be made gradually.

"The vast majority of you I think recognize that decision needs to be guided on the basis of the virus and its spread. decisions on the basis, always first and foremost, public health, and the question that question," Newsom said. "It's driven not by ideology. By argument, by evidence, and by the curation of best practice across the state, across the country, but from around the rest of the world. We led with that first indicator… testing, tracking, tracing..

He referenced California's effort to reach "Stage 1" of the White House's "Opening Up America Plan," and acknowledged significantly more testing is needed.

Phase 1 involves outdoor recreation areas, shops, and other large venues (sit-down dining, movie theaters, sporting venues, places of worship) opening, along with a return to work for many, but social distancing guidelines must still be followed.

Right now, Newsom said in Wednesday's press conference, we are performing about 16,000 tests per day. While that is greater than the 2,000/day seen at the end of March, the goal is to reach between 60,000 and 80,000 daily tests.

To reach this point, hospitals say they need more supplies, including swabs required to conduct the COVID-19 diagnostic exam. Newsom said that he spoke with President Donald Trump, "less than an hour" ago, with the President saying that California will receive a minimum of 100,000 swabs this week, 250,000 next week, and an even larger increase the following week.

"That was a very good phone call. I want to thank the President not only for being available for a phone call at a moments notice, but being willing to directly commit to all of us in the state of California to substantial increase in supply of these swabs."

The need is not just to increase testing, but expand where testing is happening. Newsom says there is a struggle to reach both rural and urban communities, so the state is opening 86 new test sites with a "socioeconomic" focus.

“We know that communities of color are disproportionately affected by COVID-19,” said Governor Newsom. “We must ensure that we are deploying testing equitably in an effort to reduce the higher death rates we are seeing in African American and Latino communities.”

As testing increases, so does the need for adequate "tracing" - the ability to locate people who has tested positive, identify and find who they have been in contact with, and make sure that group is tested and staying confined.

Newsom says they are starting a training academy for tracers with the plan to have a group of 10,000 people building off local efforts and data.

The Governor previously announced six indicators driving California’s decision to modify the state’s stay-at-home order.

  • Expanding testing and contact tracing to be able to identify and isolate those with the virus;
  • Preventing infection in people who are most at risk;
  • Being able to handle surges in hospitals and the health care delivery system;
  • Developing therapeutics to meet demand;
  • Ensuring businesses, schools and child care facilities can support physical distancing; and
  • Determining when to reinstate certain measures like the stay-at-home order if need be.

Article Topic Follows: News
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Aaron Groff

Aaron Groff is an evening co-anchor at KION News Channel 5/46.

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