SACRAMENTO (AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom says he will announce a detailed plan Tuesday for lifting coronavirus restrictions, a decision he says will be made without “political pressure,” an apparent reference to President Donald Trump declaring himself the ultimate decision-maker for when states can reopen.
Barely a week ago, it seemed very unlikely Newsom would be talking about a plan for reopening the state any time soon. His administration was sticking to a forecast of a potential tidal wave of virus cases in mid-May that could require up to 66,000 additional hospital beds.
But on Monday Newsom reported a continuation of the encouraging data that showed a stabilization in hospitalizations and patients requiring intensive case treatment. In Los Angeles County, the state’s largest and home to about 40% of its deaths and overall cases, officials said Monday the number of new cases was the lowest in weeks.
Newsom didn’t share any details of his plan for reopening and it’s unlikely he will provide a specific date for rollbacks. He cautioned people can expect an “incremental release of the stay-at-home orders” that will use “science to guide our decision-making and not political pressure.”
Newsom, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee also announced a partnership “to work together on a shared approach for reopening our economies — one that identifies clear indicators for communities to restart public life and business.”
On Monday, Trump posted a message on Twitter noting that some are saying it’s up to the governors to open up the states, not the president or the federal government. “Let it be fully understood that this is incorrect,” Trump wrote. “It is the decision of the President, and for many good reasons.”
Newsom and Trump have been political enemies, clashing about immigration, abortion rights and the environment, but both have praised the other’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Trump has even used some of Newsom’s comments in a campaign ad.
Newsom continued nursing that delicate dynamic by expressing his independence from Trump while stressing their partnership.
“I have all the confidence in the world moving forward that we will maintain that collaborative spirit in terms of the decision-making that we make here within the state of California as it relates to a road map for recovery,” Newsom said.
California has more than 23,500 COVID-19 cases and at least 689 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause severe life-threatening illness, including pneumonia.
California has been building its hospital infrastructure in anticipation of an overwhelming crush of cases. In Los Angeles, St. Vincent Medical Center reopened Monday as a surge hospital that could be utilized if the area sees a spike in cases, a possibility looking less likely than when state officials weeks ago decided to lease it using taxpayer money approved by the Legislature.
On Friday, Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s top health official, said it’s possible hospitalizations won’t rise much more. And Newsom said the weekend numbers held relatively steady, with ICU hospitalizations rising 2.9% on Sunday to 1,178, leaving thousands of beds available should there be a surge of patients.
In Los Angeles County, with more than 10 million residents, Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer reported 239 new cases. Reports of new cases are usually lower on Mondays because of limited testing options during the weekend, but it still was the lowest daily number since March 26.
“And that’s a good thing,” Ferrer said.
While there is improving data overall, certain populations remain especially vulnerable. They include the homeless, inmates and those in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Authorities on Monday reported an outbreak at a nursing home in Yolo County, where 35 people were infected and one person died.
Meanwhile, a huge segment of the economy has been crippled and more than 2.3 million people have applied for unemployment benefits in the past month. On Sunday, state officials sent out 224,000 unemployment checks that included an additional $600 from the federal government, part of a $2.2 trillion aid package approved by Congress and signed into law by Trump.
California has spent more than a half-billion dollars already on the virus, with the latest spending announced Monday: $42.6 million to help at-risk youth. The spending includes roughly $8.5 million for foster families, including laptops and cellphones for foster children.
It also includes an extra $200 a month for food and other necessities for families identified as at-risk of entry into foster care.
“We were a foster family growing up myself. Some of the most intense, most extraordinary moments of my life were defined by the experiences that were brought into our household by a foster brother,” Newsom said. “It really brought home the power and the potency of the people that are helping support our foster children.”