Jul 9, 2020
California Governor Gavin Newsom July 9 Press Conference Transcript
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Gavin Newsom: (07:28)
Thank you again for the opportunity to update you on some of the work we’re doing here in the state of California to keep people healthy and also keep people safe. We’re here at one of the air force bases here in Northern California. Behind me, you’ll see a brand new Black Hawk helicopter that was procured recently by Cal Fire. We’re very pleased to have this new equipment, not only here today, but it demonstrably is part of an effort to upgrade and improve our salivary system, our capacity to mitigate, prevent, and suppress wildfires here in the state of California. I don’t need to remind anybody that lives in the state of California of the wildfire season, getting extended year in and year out. I don’t need to remind anybody that was impacted directly or indirectly by the 628 fires that we had just last week here in the state of California, about the seriousness and resolve to which we place on making sure that we are prepared for every wildfire season.
Gavin Newsom: (08:37)
As we enter into July, August, September, steady into October, and as it’s become the norm, now not the exception. Even November, we refer to this time of season peak wildfire season. We have had to date at least through July 5th of year from January to July 5th, some 4, 112 wildfires. That represents a significant increase over last year. In fact, last year there were 2,580 wildfires, 4,112. 2,580, excuse me, is the average that we experience on an annual basis. The good news, despite the significant increase in the total number of fires that we’ve experienced to date is that the size of the fires have been contained substantively so. In fact, average, now these wildfires about 6.6 acres, we have a goal to get to 95% suppression under 10 acres for each wild land fire. We’ve been exceeding that goal. And as a consequence, even though we’ve experienced substantially above average number of wildfires, we have actually experienced a reduction in the average number of acres burned compared to previous year and compared to historic averages.
Gavin Newsom: (10:06)
And so that’s testament, it’s a long way of saying this, that’s testament to the talents that reside here today, behind the camera. Those you’ll hear from in a moment, Chief Porter, and others that are responsible for keeping us safe and responsible for organizing a construct with Cal Fire that is second to none in this country. I would argue anywhere else in the world, a force of firefighters that is about as professional as it gets, about as experienced as any force anywhere in our country, and now is better equipped than ever. More equipment represents more time saved, more value to suppression. These Black Hawk helicopters represented $285 million procurement of some 12 helicopters that we’re bringing into our fleet over the next few years.
Gavin Newsom: (11:02)
But what they also represent is the capacity to roughly double their suppression capacity, to have the capacity to move faster with more personnel, not just with more suppression capacity and also a safety component with a second engine that allows these Black Hawks to be even more essential at a time when we got to focus on the safety of our frontline heroes. Accordingly, we have the capacity, and once the cohort of new pilots is brought online, we’ll be able to get these helicopters to provide suppression during the evening hours, which is also a significant advancement compared to the old helicopters.
Gavin Newsom: (11:49)
The Hueys from Vietnam era helicopters we had in the past that didn’t none of that above. So anyway, I’m just encouraged by the fact that we’re seeing these procurements now come into place under now the banner of Cal Fire. Also encouraged that we were able to successfully pass a budget this year, despite a very difficult budget climate, $54.3 billion budget shortfall that we had to balance. We were still able to make investments not just the $285 million for the Black Hawks that I referenced, but also made investments, $130 million in new investments from communication equipment. Made investments on new cameras, over $5 million for 108 wildfire cameras, which are incredibly important and advantageous in terms of being able to identify early some of the sparks as it relates to new fires. We were able to get just shy of $25 million for what we referred to as an innovation sprint for new technologies.
Gavin Newsom: (12:52)
One of those that I’ve highlighted in the past deserves to be highlighted again, is Techno Silva, which does some incredible, we talk a lot about modeling as it relates to COVID-19, Techno Silva does some incredible wildfire modeling that really helps advantage some of our planning and preparedness work throughout the state of California. Again, all of those additional investments that we were able to make, despite the constraints of a very difficult budget year. One of the most important though investments we made was an $85.6 million investment to provide a new permanent workforce for Cal Fire. We’re adding an additional 172 members full time equivalent staff to our team. That is a significant increase. Those are not seasonal workers, that’s baseline support for Cal Fire. Again, during a difficult budget season, that was not necessarily something many people anticipated we would be able to accomplish. And that was accomplished because of the leadership of the legislature. I want to thank both the Senate leaders as well as assembly leaders for supporting these budgets and advancing the collective cause of vigilance to keep us safe and prepare for our wildfire season.
Gavin Newsom: (14:09)
So with the additional permanent staff now, additional resources you see behind me in terms of equipment, more sophistication in terms of suppression and tactics, based on new technologies that we procured, we believe despite the fact that we’ve seen an increase with a very dry winter, an increase in the total number of fires that the team here, Chief Porter, his leadership, entire office of emergency services is up to the task. But I say all that very soberly. The basis of the fact that just in the last 10 years, five of the most destructive wildfire seasons we have incurred. I don’t need to remind you of where we just 24 months ago talking about paradise.
Gavin Newsom: (14:54)
And of course, last year, even though it was a below average year in terms of wildfires, didn’t feel like that for people in Southern California or in Northern California, certainly those directly impacted by the ravages of some manmade disasters, but also mother nature. And I am not going to be sheepish. I won’t be shy. The hots are getting hotter. The drys are getting dryer. The wets are getting wetter. You may call that climate change. You may call that global warming. But one thing we know is our approach to dealing with wildfires has to change and adapt with a climate that is changing very, very dramatically. And so I just want to thank all of those leaders that are assembled here today. Again, some you’ll hear from in a moment for their attention, their stewardship, their faith, and devotion to the cause of wildfire suppression and public safety.
Gavin Newsom: (15:53)
First, I want to just mention a couple of other things before I bring up Tom Porter, our chief, and that is a little bit of update on PG&E because PG&E plays a role in our efforts here to prepare and suppress wildfires. It goes without saying we were, none of us were sheepish. None of us were shy in our condemnation and critique about the nation’s largest utility PG&E that went into bankruptcy. With everything going on many people may not be aware that PG is now out of bankruptcy. We able to accomplish that before July 1st, but they’re coming out a new company. They’re coming out with new expectations and ultimately new accountability and responsibility and a new criteria that if they don’t perform the state of California can intervene in ways we’ve never been able to with a private utility in the past.
Gavin Newsom: (16:44)
It’s important to note a part of the emergence from bankruptcy PG&E, they’re required to do things in the past they’ve never been required to do, on vegetation management, on updating and modernizing their grid, on hardening their infrastructure, on sectionalizing parts of the grid so they could be more precise in terms of when they turn off that power and how quickly they can turn on that power. On weather monitoring stations, on their own infrared evening capacity to get lines back up and to ultimately procure the personnel that are required for the work that they need to do on wildfire safety. There’s a new wildfire safety division. There is a new wildfire safety advisory group made up of experts. The state of California has its own monitor. That’s currently in PG&E monitoring their progress to transition. There’s a $5 billion obligation that PG&E has to invest in, broadly to invest in hardening their infrastructure, undergrounding wires. And that is a requirement that does not come with a profit attachment, meaning those of you watching don’t have to pay the costs associated with the return on the investment of that size that they have in the past typically sought.
Gavin Newsom: (18:12)
We have much more aggressive oversight of the public utilities commission, which is the authority that oversees our three large IOUs, our investor on utilities, including PG&E. And there’s a framework of engagement with a new board of directors. 11 of the 14 members of the PG&E board have been replaced with a new board, a new CEO all. Have started with different skillsets and different obligations. As I said, a moment ago, just on the PG&E front, we also have a new capacity because the leadership of well, Jerry Hill, among many others, I want to appreciate Senator Hill particularly though for his leadership, getting to me just a week or so ago, a bill that allows us to take PG&E over if they are not performing on the expectations and the mandate-
Gavin Newsom: (19:03)
Performing on the expectations and the mandates that we have set forward. We have graduated sanctions, graduated oversight and the capacity to break glass, what we refer to as plan B, if they simply are not doing their job. So we are about safe, reliable, and affordable service, more oversight, more accountability, more capacity to deliver. I’m not going to over promise however, just on the PG&E front that everything’s going to change overnight, took us decades for PG&E to create the mess that they created, where they ended up in bankruptcy for the second time in the last decade-plus.
Gavin Newsom: (19:43)
None of us again are naive about what they need to accomplish moving forward, but we’ve never had a criteria, we’ve never had conditions set, we’ve never been able to bracket our expectations, and have real oversight and accountability than we do today. And so let’s work through this year, let’s continue hold that company accountable with new energy, new focus and new leadership. Work over the next few years to continue to double down on these investments, both from the utility side as well as from Cal fire and our broader office of emergency service to get California the place where you deserve it to be, even as we address the issues of climate change.
Gavin Newsom: (20:23)
And so that was a framework to which I wanted to begin my presentation here today. I of course will be doing an update on COVID, but there is a COVID connection to the announcements we’re making here today as well. And so I’m going to ask, not only Tom Porter, Chief of Cal fire to come up, and talk a little bit about how he’s preparing for the wildfire season, but also talk as Director Ghilarducci at Office Of Emergency Service, because one thing we recognize is if we’re going to count on our frontline employees and make these kinds of investments by increasing our firefighting workforce, we’ve got to keep them safe, we got to keep these environments COVID free.
Gavin Newsom: (21:03)
And so we have criteria and a lot of changes here at Cal fire, and in terms of our fire suppression strategies to make sure people have appropriate protective gear, to make sure that we’re socially distancing, even as fighting fires, to make sure we’re getting briefing that is not all cohorted together, to make sure that meals are served in a way where we can isolate any considerations of concern as relates to the spread of COVID-19. A lot of new protocols, a lot new procedures are in place, both from firefighting, but also from an evacuation perspective, in terms of how we shelter, and how we do with the processing and protocols into our shelters, working with our partners, Red Cross, and others doing temperature checks, making sure, again, that meals are individually boxed, not the kind of meals you’ll typically see during evacuations and emergencies. Making sure that we are cohorting people, and making sure that we have physical distancing in the environments that we’re putting up, even if they’re temporary environment.
Gavin Newsom: (22:05)
So Director Ghilarducci will talk a little bit more about those protocols and procedures that they’ve been working on for months, new guidelines they put out, and actually have already utilized based on the existing wildfires that we’ve been experiencing since January and talk about how we want to improve upon our efforts as we iterate in this very different environment that we are in. But with that, let me now ask Tom Porter to come up, Chief Porter talk a little bit more about what he’s been doing the last number of months to prepare for this wildfire season.
Gavin Newsom: (22:41)
As I do that, and I walk away, I just want to knowledge his work on those 35 high priority vegetation management projects that we identified that impact 200 vulnerable communities in the State of California, their team delivered on all 35. They got those projects done. These are firebreak projects, these are projects that had a social economic frame, not just a frame around acuity of concerns in terms of high risk vulnerable areas for fire suppression, but also on the basis of communities that didn’t necessarily have the resources that many others have making sure that trailer parks, around trailer parks, or where people don’t have access to vehicles where they can move quickly, or don’t have other resources, that we also prioritize those individuals as part of this 35 cohort. And I just want to thank Tom for identifying that a year ago, moving on that, and finally delivering on that last project, which was up there near highway 17, around Santa Cruz. Finally, that project, which was a stubborn one, finally got done. Thank you, Tom Porter. Happy to [inaudible 00:23:48].
Chief Tom Porter: (23:57)
Well, thank you Governor, and thank you for all the recognition. And it goes without saying that the troops on the ground are the ones that really make this all happen, that is a mix of Cal fire, Forest Service, BLM, other DOI, Department Of Interior agencies, as well as our Local Government partners that are there every single day putting these fires out and keeping them small as the Governor mentioned. So I wanted to start out with what we’re looking at. We are now at the point of turning the corner, we are in peak of fire season. That means that fires aren’t going to just go out as the sun goes down, they’re going to start burning through the night. They’re going to start burning into the chaparral or brush covered landscape. They’re going to start burning into the forest.
Chief Tom Porter: (24:55)
This is the time of where fires start to get bigger and more difficult to control. So the resources the Governor mentioned, the Cal Fire Hawk behind me. We have three that are ready for water dropping today, and getting their crews filled out, and deployed to the field. We have the rest that are coming online in the next months, and a couple of years. What that means is we’ll be able to meet that 95% of the time, keeping fires 10 acres or less. And we will work with all of our partners to ensure that that is what we continue to do.
Chief Tom Porter: (25:38)
What we need from you the public is a continued vigilance. We have finished the 35 projects, we are continuing with an additional list of projects that follow that, and we are not going to forget that we need to come back and maintain the 35 projects. So this is a ongoing commitment to you the public that we will maintain and look to further that effort that was undertaken in the last year. But we need you also to be vigilant, identify fires early, call them in. The cameras work great, but sometimes the phone is faster. So call in fires, notes of suspicious activity. Just in this calendar year, just 2020, we have already arrested, and this is only Cal Fire, law enforcement has already arrested 45 arsonists, 45 just in the seven month period that we’re currently in for this year. That is because of tips that come from you the public. We need to have that information.
Chief Tom Porter: (26:54)
Then as we start to respond to fires, and there are evacuations, there’s already been evacuations here and there on some of the smaller fires that we’ve had thus far, the public is starting to see how those are going to go. Director Ghilarducci will give more detail about that. We need you as the public to wear your mask. Your mask is what’s going to keep you safe from infections coming into your community, as well as keep our firefighters and emergency responders safe from taking infection out into their population. We really need you to wear the masks, and we’re all wearing masks here today, that is my expectation that my firefighters are doing the same, and that you, the public, are helping us with that messaging.
Chief Tom Porter: (27:47)
So we will continue to commit to aggressive initial attack. That is the point in time when we can reduce the impact to wild land fire to the greatest extent. If we can keep fires small, we will do everything in our power to do so, that will reduce the impact on the population, on health, and everything that goes along with it. It’ll save budget as well. So what you’ll hear is me calling for now painting small fires. We need to put as much retardant on the ground around wildfires as possible, as quickly as possible in order to keep fires small. Retardant keeps fires small by allowing the time to get fire crews in and cut line around. That is absolutely important. It needs to happen on every single fire, regardless of jurisdiction, we will make it happen, we have the air fleet to do so.
Chief Tom Porter: (28:47)
With that, I’m going to circle back, our mutual aid partnership here in California is something that the world aspires to. There isn’t any place on earth that has the capabilities that are brought together by our community of Local Government, federal government, and State Government working together seamlessly to keep fires small, but when fires get big to wrap around and make sure that the fire is taken care of, as well as the public. With that, I’m going to turn the mic to Director Ghilarducci. Thank you.
Director Ghilarducci: (29:29)
Thanks Tom. So just building on Chief Porter’s comment, talking about the mutual aid system, and our ability to respond to wildfires, in this particular year with COVID a little bit more complexity, the need to make sure that all of our mutual aid responders, all of our firefighters, and the public are aware of what to do when we may have an evacuation, and how we’re going to do things differently in the event where we need to set up emergency shelter. But that mutual aid system expands to beyond just the firefighters, it includes our law enforcement, and Sheriff’s, and highway patrol. It includes our emergency services at the local level, the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army. These are all entities that come together to help us through the process of making sure that all of you are kept as safe as possible during these events.
Director Ghilarducci: (30:31)
This year, when we have a wildfire, you want to be very, very attuned of what’s happening in your community. Pay attention to local authorities, listen to alerts and warnings. If you’re told to evacuate, evacuate, do not wait. This is very important. There may be conditions because of resource limitations, or we may be wanting this year to move people out of harms way before fire gets to a particular area, and so we will be informing you of what those fire conditions are in your area.
Director Ghilarducci: (31:05)
So when you see a red flag warning, when you listen to local authorities about what’s happening in your community. If you’re told to evacuate this year, we are doing some things a little differently. It may be that we don’t put you in a congregate shelter situation, we may be putting you into hotels. We’ve been working throughout the State with the hotel industry to be able to open up the opportunity of making hotels available for families and individuals to keep people separated so that they’re not congregating. In the event that there is an initial shelter where you need to go into what would be a traditional shelter, we are going to be doing some requirements. There will be temperature checks, there will be mandatory mask wearing, we will set up shelters that are separating, and putting appropriate social distancing.
Director Ghilarducci: (31:54)
As the Governor mentioned, feeding will be different this year, it won’t be a buffet style feeding. It will be individual meals or what we call meals ready to eat, and be able to hand those out on an individual basis. There’ll be enhanced nursing staff or medical staff to ensure that we can account for individuals with access and functional needs, or if there’s any other particular problems. And we may be doing some segregating from people who may be COVID positive separating from people who are not covert positive. So there’s a number of things that we have built into the system. We have built new guidance through our California Department of Social Services, through the American Red Cross, and through the office of emergency services. This was a collaborative effort with our fire and law enforcement community. And we also built around that new evacuation protocols about how best to be able to address individuals in a COVID environment.
Director Ghilarducci: (32:56)
So a number of things are happening a little bit different this year, but very much important to be able to continue to keep everybody safe and secure. Now that also extends to our firefighters, and as the Governor mentioned, the way we do briefings, the way we feed our firefighters, it’s absolutely imperative that we keep our firefighters, our emergency responders, all of the folks that are responding to these wildfires as safe as possible, so that we can make sure that they can get the job done. They can get the fires out, and they can move on and back to their families, and back to their fire stations.
Director Ghilarducci: (33:34)
So this year be aware, listen to recommendations, and also let me just reassure everybody, we’re all coming together on this, we’ve thought it through, but this is a partnership that also includes all of you. It’s not just a government issue. It is also a partnership. So please have a plan, get a communications plan, understand your evacuation routes, where you live, have more than one evacuation route, should want to become blocked, and listen to authorities as they give you their guidelines.
Gavin Newsom: (34:16)
Well done. Thank you Director Ghilarducci and thank you to Chief Porter. One of the things that has occurred with COVID, and that is we’ve now been impacted in terms of our conservation corps and in our partnerships with CDCR, in terms of total number of hand crews that we have available because of quarantine, because of people that have been exposed or have been tested positive for COVID. We, as a consequence, are substantially down from where we’ve been in the past in terms of the total number of hand crew hand, total number of hand crews and total number of personnel. These are the critical workers doing that really hard grunt work, just doing the rake in and getting down into the dirt and preparing the line for our firefighters.
Gavin Newsom: (35:06)
We have 192 crews that we have partnered with CDC are on. Currently just 94 of them are available, 94 of the 192. Conservation Corps as well is down, not as substantially as CDCR, but they’re down in terms of the total number of crews. As a consequence I also want to announce today that we are directing Cal Fire to move forward with temporary cohort of support, an additional 858 seasonal firefighters through, at least, October, and we want additional six cohorts or crews at our California Conservation Corps as well to help supplement and augment this reality.
Gavin Newsom: (35:53)
So again, we are trying to be as prepared and vigilant as possible, we’re not looking to react and announced something after the fact, we’re trying to lean in and do our best to be vigilant and prepared. Again, 4,112 fires substantially higher than the average of 2,580 that we typically have this time every single year, if that’s not a proof point enough, just consider if you’re up here in Northern California, where we are back to back to back to back, triple digit days. You can just look in your own backyard and you could see that brush turning brown, grass turning brown.
Gavin Newsom: (36:32)
We are now walking right into the thick of firefighting season wildfire season, let us be vigilant and let us take heed to what Director Ghilarducci said, that there’s a lot we can do individually in terms of our own preparedness and our own planning, evacuation planning, and the like, but also remember defensible spaces, if you haven’t gotten to that, please do so this weekend, if you can, to the extent you’ve been thinking about doing a little bit of home hardening and you haven’t done it, you may want to reconsider about the opportunity to do that, because this is the time to do this, don’t dream of regretting.
Gavin Newsom: (37:09)
Let me speak about other plans, other efforts, that are underway as it relates to suppressing and mitigating the spread of COVID-19. We yesterday are reporting additional 7,031 individuals have tested positive for COVID 19. When you look at the seven day average, and increasingly I hope we can begin to focus on the seven day average as the day to day, it doesn’t always give you a real sense of where the trend lines are, it’s a more episodic number, but when you look at the seven day average, we currently have 8,043 positives that we’ve averaged over a seven day period, 7,031. The last reporting day, 8,043, which is the rolling seven day average. Speaking of seven day average, we have a 14 day.
Gavin Newsom: (38:03)
Speaking of seven day average, we have a 14 day positivity rate that we share with you often. The slides, if any of you tuned in to our slide presentations, the seven day average as well. Both the 14 day positivity rate in the State of California and the seven day positivity rate in the State of California are at 7.3%, 7.3% positivity rate, both 14 and seven day average in the State of California. We have lost, over a seven day period, we’ve averaged 73 lives lost in the State of California. 73 a day. We talked about this on Monday. We saw a weekend where we were down to 20 and Saturday, 6 on a Sunday, and there’s a little bit of lag in some respects on reporting. We had a few folks come in from San Bernardino last night, rather reports come in from San Bernardino as an example where they were at zero and all of a sudden at 21. There may be some reporting questions there. And that’s why I think the seven day average is really where I want to focus our efforts. Consequence, when you just look on that one day, it was 149 that were reported yesterday, but I want folks to take a look at some of the reports that came in from some of these counties. I think it’s really more responsible for all of us to share the seven day average and not focus on six one day and 149 a week later. Devastating each and every one of those six, more devastating to even contemplate what families are going through. Those 149 families that have lost a loved one and what they’re dealing with as it relates to a loss of someone near and dear.
Gavin Newsom: (39:47)
And it’s just a reminder of my gosh, what more reminder do you need, not only in terms of the spread transmission of this virus, the ubiquity of this virus, not only throughout the State of California, but increasingly all across this country. But the mortality rates are still front and center and should be in your consciousness. For those that just think that now people are getting it. No one’s dying. That is very misleading. In fact, it’s fundamentally untrue and California’s numbers, we’re reporting over a seven day period, averaging 73, 149 yesterday, are Testament to that point how deadly and devastating this disease continues to be in the State of California and how incredibly important and essential it is that you wear face mask, face coverings, practice physical distancing, wash your hands, practice the kind of hygiene and sanitation that hopefully by now, we’ve all been accustomed to since the beginning of this pandemic. So that’s an update briefly.
Gavin Newsom: (40:47)
I want to just update you [inaudible 00:40:50] we had slides. I’d be presenting hospitalization numbers and ICU numbers. Again, proving the episodic nature, day to day nature of some of these things. Our hospitalization numbers went up modestly yesterday, 0.4%. And our ICU numbers actually went down yesterday, 0.1%. That doesn’t tell me anything again. I look at those rolling 14 day averages.
Gavin Newsom: (41:16)
That’s what I share with you on a consistent basis. And remember, hospitalizations yesterday over a 14 day period increased 44%. ICU increased yesterday by 34%. So just because they went down marginally yesterday isn’t of itself a trendline and should in and of itself be a headline either. So that’s the hospitalizations, ICU, deaths, total number of new positive cases, rolling averages, were experienced over 7, 14 day period. We continue to do more to monitor and work, providing technical assistance with the 26 counties that are currently on the monitoring list to make sure that their needs are met. And I will in closing, before we open up the questions, just highlight to Larry County, Imperial County, LA County, Kings County, continue to be areas of disproportionate focus for our team as it relates to the current trajectory of the virus in those communities and current capacity to meet the needs in those counties. And so with that, let me happily answer any questions you may have.
Colby Bermell: (42:26)
Hi there, governor. This is Colby Bermell from Politico California and Sacramento [Cover 00:42:31] Energy. Thank you for taking the time, along with directors Porter and Gilladucci. A few fire questions to start. This is for either Governor Newsom or Director Porter. Will regular and or inmate fire crews ever be at full strength this season and how important are inmate fire crews to California’s overall firefighting effort and throughout the West?
Gavin Newsom: (42:51)
Yeah, we’ve had a partnership since the late 1940s with CDCR and the state, as it relates to these hand crews, goes back decades. And as I said, some of the toughest work that’s done out there on the lines, some of the most important work is done by these hand crews. I noted a moment ago and I’ll reinforce it now. We had 192 crews in the State of California partnership with the state and CDCR. We’re down to 94 of those 192 that are quote unquote active. And that’s why we have some urgency to provide some supplemental support in terms of seasonal firefighters and address the need to do the same with our Conservation Corps members as well. As it relates to the essential nature of their work, when you have a chief and you have a director of office emergency service, much more interesting to hear from them and their perspective over the course of decades, professionalism, than from me. And let me take advantage of them being here and they can answer that more directly.
Chief Tom Porter: (43:57)
Thank you, governor. And thank you for the question as well. So we are actively working and have been with CDCR to make sure that we’re getting all of the inmate fire crew members that we possibly can through training and into camps. And so, we will continue to do that. I don’t expect this season to make it to full capacity with inmate crews. I think we do have the possible opportunity toward the end of season to bolster that and get close to where we were last year, which essentially was at about 75%. We were around 150, 155 crews last year. And we hope to get to that number or close to it as well. But we are also looking at what the reality is. Right now, we don’t have those crews and we might not. COVID might infect firefighters and or hand crews and keep them out of the firefight for a quarantine period or longer.
Chief Tom Porter: (45:07)
And so, the 858 firefighters that we’re bringing on are going to be put into hand crew configuration and they are going to backstop those numbers that we are down. So we’re looking at that. You add the six additional exclusive use crews out of the CCCs. That’s a few more crews available to us, and then we’re going to work to make sure everybody maintains their health, keeps their social distancing when in base camp at large fire operations. They will be considered a family unit because they’re working so closely together. So they will eat together. They will travel together. They will work together, but they will be working, traveling, and eating separate from the rest of everybody. So there will be these family units that you’ll see at base camp eating together, potentially not with masks on while eating. But when away from that dinner table, there’ll be masked up and working on the fire line or getting RNR that they need in order to remain healthy and keep up the firefight. So that’s where we are with the crews.
Gavin Newsom: (46:23)
So that reinforces the new directive on the 858 individuals. Let me say two things though briefly just to give people a full sense of what’s happening. It’s not just a COVID question. We have decompressed the prison system, CDCR, by roughly 10,000 individual inmates since March. We have plans to continue to do more as it relates to concerns we have within the system and inmates’ safety, as well as staff safety. As a consequence of that and some the camps where we’ve had to quarantine, we have 38 camps or so in the state. And we’ve had issues in some of those camps that brought down total number of available personnel and mates to help support these efforts that are the reason, the predicate foundation, to which we are building this new cohort of seasonal firefighters through October 858.
Colby Bermell: (47:16)
And on the flip side of this fire equation, there are the residents, of course. On evacuations, how will you guarantee the health and safety of residents in the shelters, not just giving the smoke from the fires, but now the coronavirus transmission, like in close quarters. And a followup to that, if I may, will there be a shortage of already depleted masks and will hospitals be ready to handle a possible surge this fall?
Gavin Newsom: (47:41)
Yeah, well, as it relates to masks, I made announcements yesterday about the success we’ve had, 189 million mass just from one vendor that we’ve been bringing in, in the last 60 plus days, 79 million N95 masks, not just 189 million procedure masks. We now have inventory of well over a quarter billion masks. It’s still not where we need to be and where we want to be. And so, we’ll continue to procure more masks. We’re diversifying the portfolio of those that we’re securing masks from.
Gavin Newsom: (48:12)
I was last week with the head of the California Manufacturing Association, announcing a new effort to get manufacturing going in the State of California. So we could procure more masks within our state, create jobs within the State of California. We announced some partnerships there. We have one vendor that’s providing over 500,000 masks in Santa Clara, California, N95 masks a month for the state that will ultimately help the cause of addressing the needs of our firefighters in our emergency personnel as well. But specifically your question, beginning of the question was about the issue that Director Gilladucci was describing and advancing. He’s been working on defining these guidelines for evacuations and sheltering strategies with COVID in mind. And let me ask him back up to answer more specifically some of the efforts and probably more granularity your question.
Director Ghilarducci: (49:17)
So thanks for the question. And I think it really speaks to what we originally talked about, about different protocols that have been put in place with regards to how we’re going to do sheltering this year during the COVID. Look, all of the shelters through the new protocols and procedures that we put in place, we’re considering the covert protocols for sheltering, designed to ensure that again, if we’re going to be doing congregate sheltering, those shelters are going to be made sure that they are segregated appropriately so that either we’re separating positive COVID folks from negative COVID folks. We’re going to cohort families, keeping family units together. There will be deep cleaning that will be taking place. Temperature checks will be occurring at these shelters as you come in and get registered.
Director Ghilarducci: (50:10)
There will be the thermometers and other kinds of medical procedures that are in place. They will be ensuring that feeding is done in a much more safe and secure manner, so that it’s specific meals provided for each individual person. Now, that’s in the event that we are in a congregate sheltering situation. The other piece that we talked about earlier is utilizing hotels, being able to then provide support services, wraparound services at those hotels. We’ve been working with the Cal State University system, the community college system, as well as UC in the event that we need to use dormitories, expand the use of facilities. And we have our fairgrounds that we could build out as well.
Director Ghilarducci: (50:59)
So there are a number of things that we’ve actually put in place, but let me be clear. There is nothing extremely linear about this. This is always working through the circumstances and the conditions of a particular fire of a particular community will dictate a lot about how we’re responding to this, but these are the protocols that we’ve been putting in place. And we’ve already used them on at least three or four fires that we’ve had in the state and we’ve tested the protocols. And we found that the protocols are working very well. Thanks.
Colby Bermell: (51:32)
Governor Newsom, you just discussed that you’re doing some more work on the continued decompression of prisons. Just wanted to get like a status update on that and just wanted to find out like where these inmates are going. And if you have the authority to even mandate these early releases.
Gavin Newsom: (51:51)
We exercise the authority that’s afforded us. I say us because it’s a collaborative effort with a federal receiver. I think it’s important people that are not familiar with the State of California and CDCR, our California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. And in 2006, the health needs of our prisoners were not being met. And as a consequence, the federal receiver took over the health care delivery within the system. That’s been in place since 2006. Most of the main major decisions, including a lot of budgetary thrust as it relates to healthcare delivery come from the receiver’s office, appointed authority, and very direct, and appointed capacity to deliver in that respect.
Gavin Newsom: (52:38)
So we are working with the receiver, we’re working with plaintiffs, as well as the federal judges that are involved. This case, I visited one of the prisons just 48 hours or so ago with the federal judge to have firsthand opportunity to engage with him, dialogue about specific conditions in one of our other prison facilities. We currently have some 2, 338 individuals, 2,338… So less than 2,400 individuals in a system, 35 prisons, a system that has over 110,000 people.
Gavin Newsom: (53:14)
2,400 is too many, but I want to put it in perspective what we’re up against. We’ve had flare ups in many prisons from Chino to Lancaster, Chuckawalla, other [inaudible 00:53:25] prisons, where we were able to work very aggressively and collaboratively with the receiver’s office, with the plaintiff’s attorneys, and with our partners, both Department of Public Health, as well as within CDCR to address some of those outbreaks. And we’re making some progress. Again, one case is too many in corrections. The biggest concern remains San Quentin prison. 1,314 individuals, at least as of noon today, are tested positive in San Quentin. We are working collaborative with the receiver, federal judge, many others to decompress that system. March 1st and in San Quentin, we had 4,051 individuals that were in that prison.
Gavin Newsom: (54:09)
I made point number of days ago, well over a week ago, and we have planned within the next few weeks to bring that population down to 3,076. That’s phase one. From 131% capacity down below 100% capacity. That will happen. In addition to that, we are looking to decompress San Quentin even more. We’re cohorting individuals, we’re testing people, we’re testing staff, we’re going through a process and protocol to make sure that test results come back in a much more expeditious period of time. We’ve got an incident command center working collaboratively with the county, Marine County, and others to make sure that all of us are on the same page. All of us are rowing in the right direction. There has not been one week in the last two months where we have not focused with laser intensity on what’s going on in congregate facilities, including corrections.
Gavin Newsom: (54:59)
Homeless facilities, which I highlight often. What’s happening in veterans facilities in this state. What’s happening in residential care facilities for seniors and what’s happening in skilled nursing facilities. So this is a deep responsibility, deep obligation to keep people protected and safe, particularly those that are in these vulnerable environments. And so, I just want folks to know the seriousness of purpose. It is stubborn and has been incredibly frustrating that we had someone make the decision to transfer a few patients from one prison, Chino, into San Quentin. And that decision created the… Well, the chain of events that we are now addressing and dealing with. I’m not here to sugar coat that. I’m not here to scapegoat that. All of us are now accountable to addressing this issue in doing so forthright manner. That’s precisely what we’re doing.
Colby Bermell: (55:50)
Can you share with us some of those details, looking at that recent visit that you just discussed, whatever you can share broadly?
Gavin Newsom: (55:56)
Yeah. In broad strokes term, I just want to acknowledge the work of Ralph Diaz, the head of corrections. I want to thank the acting warden at the [inaudible 00:56:07] prison. I want to thank the federal judge for his sincerity, his deep, deep commitment to protecting inmates as well as staff in our prison system. I want to thank them for their work, particularly at that prison and other prisons. The reason we were at that prison, it’s even more highly vulnerable in many respects because the cohort of patients, the medical facility to the impacts and the ravages of COVID-19. So we want to have an opportunity to discuss the unique characteristics of what’s working, what’s not throughout the system and use that as a case study. I’ve been to San Quentin at least half a dozen occasions. I have a deep sense of the conditions and criteria of a prison. It was built in 1851, not dissimilar to a footprint that we have at Folsom and others, where it’s a more challenging environment in terms of mitigating the spread. So we had a chance to dialogue about how we are addressing the unique conditions that reside in each-
Gavin Newsom: (57:03)
… about how we are addressing the unique conditions that reside in each distinctive institution of the 35 within corrections and how we have to tailor strategies and solutions based upon the open dorm and how things are cohorted and stacked and how the patient, or rather respect to the medical facilities, patient population, inmate population within corrections, how their unique status will impact the spread of this virus and ultimate impacts on hospitals and ICU. We’re working through all of that in real time. As I said, there’s not a day that’s gone by in the last week where I’m not personally, I’m not going through a list of people that are medically vulnerable, not personally going through a list of people that we are providing some relief in providing guidance for probation, parole in order to move out into the community.
Gavin Newsom: (57:55)
But I want to make this point, forgive the long-windedness in this response, it deserves more specificity of response, that is what I can’t do is release people to the streets and sidewalks and the parks and benches and call that compassion. To do that if you’re a medically vulnerable state and this economy with no family, to leave people on the streets is not something that I will do. I want to make sure that people have support when they get out. This may seem easy for some that thousands and thousands of people automatically have housing, they have jobs, they have full family support and abundant lives the minutes they’re released from prison, even if they’re being released 180 days before they otherwise were, but that’s not always the case.
Gavin Newsom: (58:41)
We are just describing how we’re trying to procure hotel rooms and facilities for people that are evacuating for a myriad of different reasons, including projecting into the future of wildfire season. We have to do the same with the same responsibilities, same intentionality for a cohort of individuals that are being afforded the opportunity to have early release. That’s a work that needs to be done individual by individual. It’s not perfect, and that’s a process that a whole team of people has been underway for weeks and weeks and weeks over 3,500 cohort was released going back to April. We have thousands more that are in the queue to be released, moving into the next weeks and months. All of them require specific strategy, individualized efforts and supports, and that’s what the entire probation parole process is all about.
Colby Bermell: (59:32)
Do you have any plans to visit San Quentin like in the coming days or weeks? There are some lawmakers and activists who are there now.
Gavin Newsom: (59:38)
I’ve been been, as I say, San Quentin on a dozen, a half-dozen occasions, the extent, a federal judge and others, we can make our way happy to do that. But again, we’ve been visiting prisons consistently. I was in Solano number of weeks back as well, not just in the Vacaville Prison. I’ve been very active in this space on criminal justice reform, active participant in a number of campaigns, Prop 36, 47, 57, Prop 64. I led the effort as it relates to decriminalization of cannabis as a criminal justice reform issue, as someone that put a moratorium on the death penalty in the state, one of the first acts I did as a new governor, 11 or 12 months or so ago. I take this very personally and I take deep sense of responsibility in moving people forward, but in a judicious and thoughtful way, and always with a mind on public safety.
Gavin Newsom: (01:00:27)
I just say that to make this point, just the other day, someone presented to me a case of an individual, a young child, the age of my son that was strapped up in a closet with duct tape and was killed by a man as he bled out. That’s not someone that’s high on my list in terms of release. This is serious stuff. It requires a seriousness of purpose where people are just saying just released thousands and thousands of people. I hope they’re being thoughtful and considerate of not only the victims, but the prospects of people re-offending. We have to be very deliberative here. Forgive me for personalizing this, each and every one of these cases are sobering, challenging, and there’s a deep responsibility that comes with this job, but a sense of deep urgency as well to decompress this system in a judicious and thoughtful way.
Colby Bermell: (01:01:18)
Two quick-fire questions before I go to the pool for a few questions, if that’s all right, governor. The first is, what will happen if this year’s power shutoffs go worse than they were last fall? How will the utilities be held more accountable than they already are right now?
Gavin Newsom: (01:01:32)
Well, we put a process and protocol in place with the work that we did to get PG&E out of bankruptcy. PUC has new protocols in process with what we refer to as PSPS. These power shutoffs, those four letters, very familiar to people in the state of California, the blackouts that basically de-energized lines in anticipation of a high-wind event or high-fire event, where there may be vulnerabilities in those lines. The challenge in the past, it was an imprecise process. They did not have the sophistication PG&E, in particular. Although, I use more sophisticated, PG&E less sophisticated in terms of those protocols and how they can sectionalize those lines so they can shut off a smaller cohort of homes and customers and not the large swatches that they did last year. We’ve been working very collaboratively with PG&E. We brought in a monitor to oversee the PSPS process. We’ve got this wildfire safety committee. We have experts in this space that are on the advisory committee, as well as the safety division that’s now been set up, the PUC, and within PG&E, proper specific to PSPS.
Gavin Newsom: (01:02:41)
We also put $50 million in the budget to make available to counties to help support their efforts for senior centers, in corrections, help us with elections, because we have elections coming up in November and we want to anticipate the needs of counties. We provided resources in that space as well. It is our expectation, it is our absolute firm expectation that we see a diminution in the total number of incidences where PSPS is utilized and the duration needs to substantially come down as well.
Colby Bermell: (01:03:17)
Speaking of PG&E, are you personally satisfied with the $4 million fine that the Butte County Court was able to levy? Is that enough of a penalty for those 85 lives that were lost?
Gavin Newsom: (01:03:29)
Yeah, I don’t have the benefit of reading the proceedings. I’ve been, fortunately, not in a position to answer that kind of specificity that’s warranted as I didn’t have a chance to read the briefs as it relates to that particular settlement. I will have a [inaudible 01:03:43] a lot of priorities right now in front of us, including get PG&E out of bankruptcy, preparing for wildfire season, making sure we’re doing more, and doing justice to those that are incarcerated, that are vulnerable, high-medical risks to COVID-19 and addressing the spread of the pandemic. I haven’t had an opportunity to read the brief.
Colby Bermell: (01:04:02)
Okay. Thank you. Several journalists have asked me to ask you that the CTA, California Teacher’s Association, yesterday said that the state schools are not ready to safely reopen, just as President Trump pressures reopening in the face of the pandemic. The state budget deal said that schools should reopen to the greatest extent possible. What do you say to those teachers that have concerns about PPE and other safety elements? Has your administration provided enough safety for teacher, staff and students?
Gavin Newsom: (01:04:28)
Yeah, I’d say the same thing I said yesterday, that we need to, it’s non negotiable, need to keep people safe and healthy. We won’t go back in institutions that we can’t promote the kind of safety and healthy and hygiene that’s required, not only to protect our kids, but staff. I made this crystal clear yesterday. That includes not just teachers, it includes cohort of support staff from bus drivers to janitors and the likes. It’s non-negotiable safety.
Gavin Newsom: (01:04:54)
I appreciate it. The letter from California Teacher’s Association. It’s the spirit to which we are entering into the next phase of engagement with superintendents and with district leaders all up and down the state to safely reopen our schools. If we can’t do that, then we will have to modify how we advance learning.
Gavin Newsom: (01:05:17)
That other thing that’s not negotiable is we need to teach our kids. It is a default in the budget. You referenced the budget in statute that we prefer in-person education for social, emotional reasons, not just academic and intellectual reasons. That is the default prioritization. But where that cannot be afforded in a way that safely allows kids to cohort, safely allows kids and teachers to distance, safely allows people to have access to adequate supplies of PPE, and the deep sanitation and the work that needs to be done around cafeterias, modifications on assemblies, PE and alike, then we have made it clear in the language that we provided the legislature, supported by the legislature, that we have $5.3 billion in the budget to address learning loss, to address hybrid models of learning as it relates to the utilization of technology and making sure that we are doing the distance learning, that we’re doing justice to distance learning in a way that’s equitable for all kids, not just some kids.
Colby Bermell: (01:06:24)
A quick question about schools as well, and kind of the student’s wellbeing. Do you support the total, in full removal of police from schools?
Gavin Newsom: (01:06:33)
I have put language in my budget, advanced language to consider the fact that we have many schools in the state of California that are increasing their own police departments within the schools, decreasing the number of available counselors to deal with adolescent, not just physical health, but adolescent mental health. I find that rather curious, and as a consequence put language in the budget. It was supported broadly though amended by the legislature to advance concerted effort to tackle this question, to ultimately be able to advance this question in a way that it deserved.
Gavin Newsom: (01:07:08)
A thousand-plus school districts in the state, there may be appropriate need to have your own police department may not be in other circumstances where you could have an MOU with your local authorities or just disband, same, put those dollars back in, invest them into the needs of kids in our classroom. That will be adjudicated and discuss with a task force that we’ve created, a work group that we have created in partnership with the superintendent of public education, Tony Thurman. I look forward to advancing that as we’ve advanced it in the language and the budget, a budget that I signed last Monday, and will be advanced in discussions and dialogue over the course of the next number of months.
Gavin Newsom: (01:07:55)
I hear silence. Oh.
Colby Bermell: (01:07:58)
One or two more questions. Sorry.
Gavin Newsom: (01:07:58)
One more. Okay.
Colby Bermell: (01:07:58)
If that’s all right.
Gavin Newsom: (01:07:59)
I was going to take advantage of that.
Colby Bermell: (01:08:01)
No, I appreciate your time. You’re always very helpful. Had a question from Kristine Lazar, CBS Two Los Angeles. She wrote in that her inbox is always being flooded with emails from readers and viewers who haven’t like received like their unemployment benefits. They haven’t been able to get on the phone with folks at EDD. What is being done right now to fix this? I know that there’s being hiring done, but training takes months. I just wanted to hear what you would tell these residents who are in jeopardy of losing their homes perhaps?
Gavin Newsom: (01:08:34)
A few thousand people have been retrained. A few thousand people have been moved over, temporary assignments at EDD to deal with historic backlog, historic number of applications. Some 6.3 million people have filed for unemployment and received it since just March 12th. Since March 15th, we now have distributed over $44.3 billion. $44.3 billion, including just last week, $3.5 billion was distributed through EDD. That’s 3.5 billion, but it’s not enough. We’ve got to do more. We’ve got to do better.
Gavin Newsom: (01:09:09)
I could sit here and lament about the fact that we had an antiquated system of technology that dates back, well, almost to the time San Quentin was being built. That’s a bit of a pejorative, but you get the drift. The fact is, again, you own the experience, you own a resolve to focus in and learn lessons, fix things. As we work through this surge, we’ll have a chance to work with the legislature to advance the IT improvements, to advance the protocols and processes, which are really a big part of this, as well as a business process improvement that we have now underway at EDD, not just supplementing personnel, but looking at how we deliver this fundamental service. We’re doing more text messages. We’re doing more with automation. We’re doing more though as well to deal with those vexing cases.
Gavin Newsom: (01:09:59)
I think those are the ones ending up in the email box of, of the questioner, and that is those vaccine cases that are individualized, where someone was originally rejected and they’re not getting a response as to why. It may have been application that wasn’t filled out appropriately, may have been some paperwork that still hadn’t been presented. All those cases require individual case managers. Those can be very time consuming. No excuse. We have to do more and do better. I can assure you, talking to my colleagues, other governors across the country with one or two exceptions, and there may honestly just be one or two exceptions, everybody is struggling with this unprecedented moment in history with the unprecedented historic number of claims that came in overnight. All of us, at least those that I’ve talked to, are resolved to work together, share best practices to finally address this so the next governor, governors to come, are never sitting here answering a question around EDD. Three letters that have become almost synonymous like four letters last year, PSPS.
Colby Bermell: (01:11:03)
We had a few more questions, but I’m being told to wrap it up. Thank you so much for your time, governor.
Gavin Newsom: (01:11:06)
Great. Well thank you all for the time and attention. Thank you for vigilance and diligence in terms of your own work to mitigate the spread of this virus, to wear face coverings, practice physical distancing, deep sanitation in your business, the deep realization of our personal responsibility to wash our hands and to be thoughtful about not only ourselves but others health as well.
Gavin Newsom: (01:11:30)
I want to just thank Chief Porter, Director Ghilarducci and their entire team, the men and women in uniform, the Cal Fire firefighters. Thank you for the work you’ve done. Thank you for what you have ahead of you over the course of the next few months. I want to encourage everybody in the same spirit of responsibility as it relates to mitigating the transmission of COVID-19 to see what we can do to mitigate the loss of lives and property by focusing on evacuation plans, focusing on the needs to do the kind of, well, just work at the house to create some defensible space between yourself and some of the wild land and the interface that you may be residing in. Obviously do more to harden your home and protect yourselves and protect your loved one as we move into fire season, peak fire season, over the course of the next days, weeks and months.
Gavin Newsom: (01:12:28)
With that take care, everybody. Stay safe, stay healthy. Thanks for the privilege.