Sep 8, 2020
California Governor Gavin Newsom September 8 Press Conference Transcript
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Governor Gavin Newsom: (04:24)
Well good afternoon, everybody. I wanted to quickly jump in and update everybody on this historic wildfire season here in the state of California. I put up this first graph in order to underscore the magnitude of the challenges we face so far this fire season in 2020, as a comparison to the challenges we faced in 2019. As you can see from this chart, just shy of 5,000 fires this time year to date in 2019, already over 7,500, in fact, 7,606 wildfires so far in 2020. But the number that has generated understandably more attention than any other is the next number, you see. 118,000 acres were burned in 2019 by this time last year. You can see close to, just shy of 2.3 million acres have been burned this year. Historic is a term we seemingly often use here in the state of California, but these numbers bear fruit to that assertion that this is historic.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (05:33)
This is the largest fire season we’ve had in terms of total acreage impacted in some time, back recorded in recent modern history, but nonetheless, you put it in comparison terms and contrast to last year. It’s rather extraordinary, the challenge that we faced, again, so far, this season 2020.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (05:55)
Since just, well, August 15th, just a few weeks back, we have had over 900 fires statewide, 25 major, what we refer to as fire complexes in the state of California and some 42,000 people still under evacuation orders. Just since 8/15, since August 15th, 1.8 million acres have burned. So again, the challenge has been made more acute just in the last few weeks since the middle of August, primarily, not exclusively, but primarily because of the unprecedented number of dry lightning strikes that the state of California experienced over primarily a 72 hour period, but ongoing dry lightning strikes that we experienced for a week extended.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (06:51)
So this is a challenging year. It’s historic in terms of magnitude, scope and consequence. And it also has required us a deep reservoir of resource. Nearly 14,000 firefighters currently deployed to work on these fires, over 1900 engines. Those include by the way, engines that have come out of state and engines and support that will come from the federal government. Tragically, we’ve lost eight lives so far this wildfire season, and we know of 3,400 structures that have been destroyed. We know that number is an under count as we repopulate areas, as the smoke quite literally settles and we’re able to go back and assess the damage based upon this historic wildfire season.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (07:40)
Let me give you an update on the progress on active wildfires over the course of the last number of weeks. Just a week or so ago, six days ago, I updated you on the Lake Napa complex of fires, some 375,000 acres. We were at 76% containment. Today we’re at 91% containment. The CZU fire down there, the Santa Cruz mountains, 46% contained last week. We’re now up to 81% containment. So progress on those two complexes of fires. Demonstrable example and proof point of the grit, the hard work, the determination of Cal Fire, our mutual aid system and our partners across the spectrum, be it those that are on the front lines from the California Conservation Corps to those that have come out of CDCR, our state penitentiary, working those lines and mitigating the spread and growth of those fires. The SCU fire is now substantially more contained than it was a week ago. 95% containment compared to where we were just six days ago at 76%.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (08:51)
Let me just though mark both on the LNU complex and the SCU complex, those two fires representing the second and third largest complex wildfires in state history. Because of the wind events, and I’m going to talk about that in a moment, those complexes are still spotting, meaning we’re still having issues around containment. And while you see extraordinarily high containment numbers, 91% on the LNU and 95% on the SCU, that’s not good enough. We still have work to do, particularly with these winds coming up. And so I say that to highlight a point of caution. Oftentimes when people see containment north of 50%, they take a deep breath and there’s a sense that we’ve got these things absolutely under control. We have substantially made progress. It’s demonstrable in those containment numbers, but with wind events that we’re experiencing currently and what we anticipate over the next coming days, we have to be mindful that even with high containment numbers, those fires are anything but behind us.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (09:57)
Accordingly, the August complex, now the fourth largest in the state’s history, 261,000 acres last week, 20% contained, has grown to 356,000 acres in the last six days and is only modestly improved in terms of the total containment, you see there at 24%. I want to just update you as well on what has occurred over the course of the last weekend, new active wildfires that have generated a lot of attention, understandably and appropriately. The Creek Fire in particular began in Fresno County. It’s now extended into Madera County. It’s primarily a federal fire, but there is a state overlay and component, and I want to extend appreciation for the FMAG, that’s language, many of you that follow these press conferences are familiar with, that was afforded the state of California over the weekend. I want to thank FEMA for that support and the White House for their support in this space. That is currently 0% contained and as of this morning was at 143,000 acres.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (11:06)
I want to just make this point. In a moment I’ll show you just a very brief video. We talk about grit. We talk about determination. We talk about people that are committed to their job, not just interested in their job. That was demonstrated by active real courage over the course of the weekend, where we had a Black Hawk helicopters and Chinook helicopter come in when the smoke was raving, meaning you couldn’t see very far, the visibility was problematic. We had 214 individuals that were rescued near Mammoth Pool, Shaver Lake area with these helicopters that made their way. And you could see on this video, some of the images of people that are coming off that Chinook helicopter. That was because of the bravery of our National Guards men and women. And I just want to personally express deep respect and admiration on behalf of 40 million Californians, but also behalf of 214 families whose lives were spared, including we estimate 11 pets that were also helped in this rescue.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (12:17)
There were night goggles used once those air tankers were no longer in the way at 7:00 PM at night in the midst of all of the density of smoke with a lack of visibility. With those night goggles, they were able to descend, find a safe place to land, and they made a decision, the right decision, to evacuate as many people as they did. I can assure you though, safety always is top of mind, that they stretched the limits of capacity in terms of the utilization of these evacuations protocols, as it relates to the helicopters themselves. And I think just deserve tremendous credit and of course our personal admiration here at the Office of Emergency Service for a job well done. So our training meets the moment, but always takes the courage, the conviction and the grit of real people doing real work. And so again, a deep gratitude to the men and women that were out there.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (13:20)
And by the way, they were out there again today, evacuating 150 people and another 14. So, over a 164 individuals were evacuated just this morning in similar efforts. We’ve got about 17 plus people that we’re still working to evacuate in real time. Information on that will be forthcoming quite literally momentarily over the course of the next few hours. So ongoing rescue efforts and extraordinary effort over the weekend, demonstrably exampled by those images you just saw and many other images that have been shared across this state and across this country.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (14:01)
Across this state, though, we continue to fight additional new active fires, Greek Fire being one of them. The Valley Fire now in San Diego, 3% contained, some 17,000 acres impacted so far. The El Dorado Fire in around San Bernardino County, 10% containment, 16,000 acres. So these are the new active fires that have come up over the course of the weekend, the El Dorado getting a lot of attention because it’s a reminder that the vast majority of fires that we experience on an annual basis come from individuals making bad decisions or by simple neglect and accident, meaning 90 plus percent of the fires that we experience in the state of California on an annual basis are manmade fires.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (14:54)
El Dorado though, there’s an investigation, those that may want to inquire more, all I can say is we are investigating the facts. A lot has been reported on this. We are investigating the veracity of what’s been reported, but moreover, we have an investigation that is underway. And when we are confident in the results of that investigation, we will make as quickly as possible that information public, but it appears to be at this moment, and I say appears to be at this moment, an example of another fire that was not mother nature, but manmade in this case.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (15:31)
The Bobcat Fire is another fire we are monitoring down in LA County, 0% containment, 8,500 acres. And the Oak Fire up around Mendocino, north of Hillsborough, 5% containment, a little less than 1000 acres. The reason I highlight these is we’re highlighting these in our early morning meetings, and I want you to be familiar with what my team is communicating to me directly as areas of real focus, areas of ongoing concern, as it relates to active wildfires in this state.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (16:08)
It is not lost on anybody, particularly those that had to weather the weather over the course of this long holiday weekend, that we experienced yet another massive record breaking heat wave over the last three days. Highest temperatures ever recorded, as an example, in Los Angeles County, 121 degrees. Death Valley, cool by historic standards. You recall Death Valley had 130 degree record historic, arguably world record temperature a few weeks back, but once again, topping north of 120 degrees, 122. Again, these temperatures felt all throughout the state of California, all throughout once again, the West Coast of the United States. And while things looked cooler in the Pacific Northwest, you still had a record breaking temperature-
Governor Gavin Newsom: (17:03)
… looked cooler in the Pacific Northwest. You still had record breaking temperatures in other parts of the West Coast of the United States as well, but California being impacted at a scale and scope that makes, again, this a very challenging time in our state’s history. Obviously, these weather events have put a lot of pressure on our energy supply, energy use. You may recall a few weeks back, I noted as it relates to some of the pressure that we were facing on our energy capacity, energy supply in our distribution system, that we averaged during the summer months about 38,000 megawatts of energy use at peak, 38,000. We went about 47,000 megawatts peak over the weekend. So we have put historic pressure on our grid. As you know, a few weeks back, we initiated an investigation. By the end of the month, we should have all of the results of that investigation, and real time information is coming back from the California Energy Commission, the California Independent System Operator, Cal ISO, and the California Public Utility Commission.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (18:19)
That’s the three legged stool of our energy supply and distribution here in the state of California, and they are working in partnership in a collaborative spirit to make sure that we never run as close as we are running to that peak capacity. Anywhere near 50,000 is a challenge for the state. Anywhere north of 45,000 puts enormous pressure. That pressure was placed on us over this weekend, so this was an active weekend in every way, shape, or form. But within that activity, your actions this weekend made a difference. We had advanced an emergency proclamation that helped us shift energy consumption. We worked with some of our largest IOUs. Those are our independent operators, utility operators, PG&E, Edison, and others.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (19:12)
To look at shifting our peak hour usage, we put out information, PSAs, and other public pronouncements encouraging that consumption. You were able to shave, because of your actions, roughly 3000 megawatts. And that was the delta, that was the difference. And I just want to thank everybody that participated over this weekend in their active engagement, from the ports to the work that was done in terms of hydroelectricity. And all of this made more challenging, because of the wildfires impacted some of our energy generation in this state. So all these things are connected. This is a challenging time. But we’re up to this challenge, and we are committed and resolved not only to deal with this situationally, but to sustainably address these issues across the spectrum, from energy to the issues of wildfires. And I can assure you… I want to make this crystal clear. We are actively engaged in not only the moment, but actively engaged on medium and long-term solutions, fundamental solutions to address these extreme events that are now becoming almost normalized out here in the West Coast of the United States, impacting disproportionately the state of California.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (20:31)
I have no patience. And I say this lovingly, not as an ideologue, but as someone who prides himself on being open to argument, interested in evidence. But I quite literally have no patience for climate change deniers. It simply follows completely inconsistent, that point of view, with the reality on the ground, the facts as we are experiencing. You may not believe it intellectually, but your own eyes, your own own experiences, tell a different story, particularly out here in the West Coast of the United States and particularly here in the state of California. California leads in low carbon green growth. We will accelerate those efforts, but we’ll be mindful in that transition of making sure we do it effectively and reliably and safely with cost considerations always in mind. But nonetheless never, never have I felt more of a sense of obligation, sense of purpose, to continue to lead and maintain California’s status internationally, not just nationally, in terms of addressing the issue of climate change head on.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (21:39)
And so I just want folks to know that resolve is resonant with this administration, and I know with the California legislature. And we will continue to advance those efforts, recognizing that some of what we predicted, which people felt was extreme at the time, has now presented itself much earlier than even those extreme predictions. And that now requires us to look anew, forgive me, Abraham Lincoln, but to act anew in terms of our approach and our discipline in terms of addressing these challenges head on. Speaking of challenges that we have to address head on, we have now diablo wind events, very well known here in Northern California. Santa Ana wind events very well known and experienced in Southern California.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (22:29)
And of course, parts of Santa Barbara, these sundowner wind events all occurring in the last 24 hours. In the next 24 to 48 hours, we’ll see wind gusts up to 50 miles per hour. And so while we’ve averted these blackout issues, we obviously now have got to reintroduce our preventative mindset. And that’s why PG&E, some of the largest independent system operators or rather independent utilities here in state of California, Edison included, have new protocols, new processes, new procedures, PSPS that now is impacted 23 counties in the state of California. And you see the 171,000 customers been impacted so far by PG&E’s actions. Edison is looking potentially today, likely tomorrow, but potentially as early as today to impact customers in six counties. We have new COVID protocols as it relates to different strategies to work in partnership, not only with these utilities and their determination of safety shutoffs as a preventative measure to address their concerns around high winds and these very, very dry conditions and to mitigate the spread, mitigate the ignition of fires.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (23:58)
But we also have different protocols and partnerships with the counties on making sure those that are impacted have support. Many of those are in place. We’ll continue to monitor the success of that effort. We put tens of millions of dollars in the budget in anticipation of these PSPS protocols. We’re now utilizing those dollars, distributing those dollars, and making sure these centers are up and operational to protect the most vulnerable that are impacted by PSPS. Speaking of vulnerable and speaking about impact, here’s the update on our COVID case numbers in the state of California. The last reporting period, September 7th, you’ll see shy of 3000 new cases in the state, 2,676 to be exact. The 7-day rolling average now 4,302. If those appear to be more promising numbers, it’s because they are. Over the last 14-day period, we’ve averaged just shy of 114,000 tests over the last 7, excuse me, tests per day, about 110,000 yesterday. The test numbers are starting to come back up after the impacts of some of those larger fire complexes.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (25:17)
We now are running, over a 14-day period, 4.3% positivity rate. In fact, it’s dropped to 3.8% over a 7-day period. So 3.8% 7-day positivity rate in the state of California, 14-day positivity rate of 4.3%. Again, these are numbers in the aggregate statewide. Hospitalizations in the aggregate statewide have dropped 24% over the last 14 days, now 4% of total number of COVID patients represented in our hospitals’ beds system-wide. So 4% of those that are hospitalized in our entire system are COVID-19 positive patients. That is down substantially as well. Good progress in this space. Following that progress, ICU emissions are also trending downward, 21% decrease over the last 14-day period. And that represents 13% or so of all of the ICU patients in our system. So when you make progress in the aggregate and you get below 5% positivity rates, we’re now dropping below 4% on the seven day.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (26:38)
We are asked the question, understandably, what about more modifications on reopening the economy? As you recall, we put out recently new simplified metrics to determine how and when the state is allowed to move forward sectorally and regionally throughout the state of California. The foundational county movement is determined by simple metrics, including case rate and test positivity, total number of people that are tested, and that’s the percentage of people that test positive. Dr. Ghaly in a moment will come update you on that effort. And I just want to, before I introduce him, remind you that the blueprint for a safer opening is to simplify with four tiers. Four colors, the purple, red, orange, and yellow.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (27:38)
He will present where we are on the statewide approach, which is much more simple. Obviously extends more stringent considerations based upon our experience going back a number of months ago, but is framed with the chart that Dr. Ghaly will explain here as he also updates you, as he will start doing every Tuesday on the updated map of those that are in the purple, red, the moderate orange, and the minimal spread yellow in those maps. He’ll be presenting that update on those counties in just a few moments. With that, let me ask Dr. Ghaly to come up and walk you through some of these details.
Dr. Mark Ghaly: (28:31)
Thank you, Governor, and good afternoon. Just to reiterate a couple of points that the governor made, we are now into the second week with our new framework, really to work with counties. And I just want to say a deep heartfelt thank you to all the county health officers, boards of supervisors, many others who’ve been in communication over the weekend, over the last week about this framework and how it impacts their counties, how it rolls out statewide, and really just in continued unprecedented level of partnership and gratitude to all of them. Again, this concept of slow and stringent is really important for California as we begin to see the reductions in case numbers, the reductions in our hospital and ICU numbers overall. Those are all very promising signs, but gains that we want to make sure we hold onto. And that as we enter flu season, as we go into winter where certain activities are harder to do outdoors, we want to make sure as a state, we go in with the lowest levels of transmission, and our framework really is designed to help us get there.
Dr. Mark Ghaly: (29:45)
Again, as the governor mentioned, four colored tears. Widespread is purple, substantial is red, moderate transmission is orange, and minimal is yellow. And each of these on a weekly basis, every Tuesday, we’ll be announcing where counties are relative to these tiers. Last week or two Fridays ago, we announced the official first unveiling of this, where each county landed. And then we said today, we would be reporting the second reporting period of this framework and updating all of you and all of the counties where any movement happened. So that’s what I’m going to do with you next. So just to remind you, when we first came out with this tiering system, we had 38 counties in purple. That was widespread. We had nine counties in red, nine in orange, and two in yellow. We had said, just as a reminder, that a county will remain in a tier for at least three weeks, and will only move to the next tier if they’ve met that next tier’s threshold, data thresholds, for two consecutive weeks.
Dr. Mark Ghaly: (30:59)
So this week, we announced that we moved five counties from purple tier to red tier. That’s 33 counties now in the purple tier, 14 in the red. Orange and yellow stayed stable at 9 and 2, and that’s only because we’re requiring counties in red, orange, and yellow to spend at least three weeks in each of those tiers. So next week, we may see some movement between red, orange, and yellow, so stay tuned to that. In terms of the counties that moved to red, it’s five counties as I said. Amador, Orange, Placer, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz all moved from purple to red, meaning that they have now met for two consecutive weeks the threshold around data metrics. That’s the test and the adjusted case rates that we track over a seven-day period for a seven-day average with a seven-day lag.
Dr. Mark Ghaly: (32:01)
And each of these counties now has moved into red, and you can go to the state’s website, covid19.ca.gov, and see what exactly that means in terms of sectors that are open through the state’s health officer order. But I’ll remind you to double check your own county website where there may be further restrictions a little bit stricter than where the state is. So with that, that’s our update. We look forward to the next update next Tuesday, reporting how counties are faring with this new structure. And we will, throughout the course of the week, be in deep conversations with county leaders, both at the health level and in other leadership roles to ensure that we’re updating these data and communicating it clearly and concisely so all citizens are aware of where their county is and the state as a whole.
Dr. Mark Ghaly: (32:56)
Before I turn it back to the governor, we are continuing to work with a number of people at the county level and broad sets of experts around issues of equity to introduce a equity measure into our framework, to assure that we continue to address the disproportionate impact on certain populations of COVID, and to ensure that we all move forward together. So with that, I’ll turn it back to the governor. Thank you.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (33:25)
Thank you, Dr. Ghaly. And so five counties now moving into different tiers. Just as a preview… And forgive me, Dr. Ghaly. We’re monitoring roughly seven additional counties that we anticipate will be moving over the course of the next week. So there’s a lot of activity in this space, a lot of progress that’s been made in the state of California getting that positivity rate down to 3.8%, but a point of caution, point of consideration. Three-day holiday weekends have not been advantageous in terms of the mitigation of the spread of-
Governor Gavin Newsom: (34:03)
… been advantageous in terms of the mitigation of the spread of this virus. You look back at some seminal periods where we experienced larger spread, a large surge of transmissions tended to occur two to three weeks after, say, 4th of July, other holiday weekends, and as a consequence, we are very cautious in terms of our approach as we move forward. We are going to hold the line in terms of the approach we laid out in partnership with counties up and down the state. This partnership continues. It’s an iterative process.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (34:37)
I’ll just give you an example. There are a number of counties that we are working with in real time over the course of the next few days, which we are comparing and contrasting certain data. It’s a way of expressing this. It’s dynamic. It is a process where we are doing all we can to be as responsive and inclusive as we should be under these circumstances, but progress being made as it relates to taming the spread and transmission of this virus, demonstrable in that seven and 14-day positivity rate and example here in the county tier status, where we have new counties moving forward into new tiers, which provide more activities and more opportunity to get us closer to normalcy.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (35:28)
Again, we cannot impress upon folks more the importance of wearing masks, physically distancing, washing hands, and minimizing mixing, but I would be remiss if I didn’t now just ask that we put up a video on the first bullet point around wearing a mask. We are blessed and we are privileged to have incredible philanthropic partners here in the state of California. One of them is Skoll Foundation. The Skoll Foundation reached out to us and committed to a partnership with Sesame Street, and as a consequence of those discussions, Sesame Street was willing to do a mask PSA in partnership with Skoll in our California For All Initiative. This PSA will be shared nationwide, and it features someone that’s very familiar to all of the children here in the state of California and the children inside of each and every one of us. We’ll queue up this new Sesame Street mask PSA.
Oh, hi. Oh, Elmo was just getting ready for school. Going to school is a little different now. At school, Elmo wears his mask and stays apart from his friends.
Today you’re learning at home on the computer. You won’t need your mask, son.
Aw, but Elmo wanted to see his teacher and his friends at school, daddy.
I know it’s not the same, but you get to see them on video chat.
Okay. Elmo’s going to take off his mask.
Yeah, this year some children are learning at home, some at school, and others are doing both. This learning transition can be tough on kids, but remember, when things get tough, take a slow deep breath. It’s going to be okay. We want everyone to stay healthy and make sure our kids get a great education.
Oh, come on, daddy. It’s time for school at home.
Speaker 1: (37:37)
Caring for each other, because we are all in this together.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (37:41)
So that’s the new PSA that’s coming out. I know it will at least fill one of my four kids’ heart as they will maybe pay attention to Elmo more than they will many of the adults and caregivers in this state, and so again, thank you to Jeff Skoll and the Skoll Foundation. Thank you to our partnership with Sesame Street, and thank you to our team, California For All. By the way, as always this PSA, the other ones that we presented you last week, the culturally competent PSAs we’re putting out as it relates to mixing a younger cohort, and we’re trying to reach, all of those PSAs and all the information we’ve provided here today, you can learn more about at covid19.ca.gov. Covid19.ca.gov.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (38:28)
I’ll close with this and then of course answer any questions by again just expressing my real debt of gratitude. On behalf of the state, I think our collective debt of gratitude to our firefighters that have been doing just a magnificent job under unprecedented historic challenges, and I just want to express, again, the partnerships’ collaboration that extend all across this country, as the mutual aid system is not just within the state of California. It extends throughout the state and around the rest of the world. We had 10 individual firefighters come from Israel last week. I had the privilege of talking to the prime minister of Canada about efforts they’re making to help support the state of California in terms of the mutual aid coming from Canada.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (39:17)
It’s just a remarkable moment that gives me a sense of optimism at a time when I know we’re filled with fear. So many of us with anxiety about the world or living in, this state, but people are remarkable, these moments and selfless and these moments. Again, that was exampled over the weekend in these heroic efforts, these two helicopters that landed rescuing 214 individuals in very difficult circumstances. They very easily, very easily could have turned around and said the smoke made that mission too dangerous, but they went in anyway. They saved many, many lives, and that’s just example of the kind of heroism that is a big part of this moment as well.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (40:04)
So progress with COVID-19, progress on the majority of these larger complex fires, new fires that are challenging us 800 miles apart from the northern part of this state to the southern part of the state. 10 plus thousand, 14,000 plus firefighters actively working on the scene partnerships with our federal forestry partners, as well as local partners actively working to suppress and mitigate the spread. But again, these weather conditions are challenging and these wind conditions in particular are going to make this next few days, most challenging perhaps we’ve had so far this year in terms of those suppression efforts. So again, just want to express deep gratitude for all of those on those front lines that are selfless in their sacrifice, in their heroism. With that, happy to answer any questions.
Speaker 2: (41:03)
Adam Beam, Associated Press.
Adam Beam: (41:08)
Governor, there are now major fires in the Pacific Northwest and Colorado, and California has about two dozen major fires, and the traditional worst of the fire season is still ahead. Do we have the resources, especially as states like Oregon and Washington can’t send help as they did previously, and what do you say to people who may be demoralized with the prospect of more fires, more bad air and more evacuations along with a pandemic that restricts what they can do and who they can see?
Governor Gavin Newsom: (41:35)
Well, we’re resilient. We’ll get through this. It’s not a permanent state. As I said, we’re not just dealing with these issues situationally and we are effectively doing so, and that’s because of the men and women in uniform that are on the front lines representing mutual aid from those states and from other countries that I just exampled. But we will get through this, and we are working in the medium and longterm to get to some of the root causes of the acuity, and that’s foundational in terms of the larger global issue of climate change, where California will continue to lead. In the absence of federal leadership, California will continue to lead, and we will be stepping up our efforts in that space, and we believe success leaves clues, and the more we push in this space, the more partners will be forthcoming in this space as well.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (42:28)
As it relates to the resource question, here’s the good news as relates to Colorado, you referenced. They have some weather conditions that are more favorable, some snow conditions that will loosen up resources. We have mutual aid requests out, and they are forthcoming because those assets are being made available from other states because of more favorable conditions in other parts of the West Coast of the United. So look, our mutual aid system is second to none in this country. We’re getting outpouring of support from around the world, and we’re developing a capacity of resiliency in this state that goes back decades. I mean, you can go back in the 80s and 90s, 2000s, 2010, 2020. Wildfires are a big part of the seasonal challenge in the state. The challenge we’re facing now is the extreme fire events that we believe are climate induced that require new approach and a different frame of tenacity.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (43:29)
And while we’ve substantially improved our investments particularly in the last year, the Brown Administration last year with an historic amount of resources we put in this space and new proactive vegetation management and forest management efforts that we advanced last year, and the new partnership, the new memorandum of understanding, a new 20-year commitment from the federal government to match those efforts for the first time. We recognize that’s one step in the right direction, but we’re going to need to make subsequent steps. So that’s what I would tell people. This is a resilient state. We have a remarkable capacity to meet these challenges head on, and we are committed not only to address the immediate but to address the medium and longterm by doing much more than we’ve done in the past, recognizing the enormity of challenge that we face.
Speaker 2: (44:23)
Alexei Koseff, SF Chronicle.
Alexei Koseff: (44:27)
Hi, Governor. Officials in Marin County had announced last week that they were expecting to move from purple to red this week, and then updated the public today that they were informed last night that they wouldn’t be able to make that transition because of a change in how the metrics are calculated. I’m not sure if any other counties saw a similar change, but I was wondering if you could offer some clarity on what changes to this framework have been made, and is it related to what you mentioned earlier about being more cautious and holding the line post Labor Day weekend?
Governor Gavin Newsom: (45:09)
Yeah, nothing fundamentally as it relates to our tiered status has changed. Quite the contrary. This is the interim process with 58 counties and health officers and the data that goes back and forth. In fact, this morning, we specifically had conversation with Marin, with Dr. Ghaly, and Dr. Ghaly’s right here, and he can eliminate you more specifically about exactly what the issue was on Friday versus today, Tuesday, with Marine County.
Dr. Mark Ghaly: (45:51)
Thanks again for the question. So we did have a conversation over the weekend with Marin County, as we did with many other counties anticipating where the data was heading, and in fact, when we did the official run yesterday with the Marin County data, as we did with all 58 counties, the anticipated move to red is really being held back, and they met threshold for purple. We did have conversations with local health officials in Marin, explained the situation, agreed to continue to look at the data, and if an adjustment is warranted in the next days to week, we will make that in move the county. This is not about a data problem. It’s not a data collection issue or that we have problematic data. It is really looking at a point in time when the data is run and pulled, understanding how the metric is calculated and working with counties to make sure that we are all on the same page.
Dr. Mark Ghaly: (46:54)
We anticipate these sorts of conversations with the new framework to occur, and we’re grateful to Marin for working with us and to the team here at this state for working with Marin to make sure that we have accurate and updated information. The last thing we want to do is see a county move one week and only to see the potential for backward movement again very soon. The slow, stringent, methodical way that we plan to approach this new framework I think is captured here. We’re having similar conversations, not exactly the same issues with a couple of other counties, at least one other county, a large county in Southern California, San Diego, about looking at exactly testing data and testing information that may also inform tier status down the road, so we are taking this as the information comes and working closely with our county partners to make sure that we move forward in the methodical way we’ve been committed to since announcing this new framework.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (48:04)
Next question. Thank you.
Speaker 2: (48:06)
David Baker, Bloomberg News.
David Bloomberg: (48:07)
Yes, Governor. You touched on the public safety power shutoffs that PG&E started implementing yesterday, and that the other utilities are thinking of doing in the next couple of days. You were quite critical in the past about how PG&E handled those. Wanted to get your impression this time around. Are you convinced that these are necessary, and how do you think PG&E has done so far in terms of notifying customers that this is coming up and trying to minimize the impact?
Governor Gavin Newsom: (48:36)
The new protocols were put into place pursuant to the work that we did last year with not only PG&E and their efforts to get them out of bankruptcy and completely re-imagined as a company in terms of their focus on you, a consumer framework of public safety, reliability, and a sustainable mindset, but also with the other IOUs. Notably new protocols were established at the PUC on notification, 72-hour notification that has improved. Is it perfect? Not yet, but it has improved accordingly. It’s the second year we’ve been able to set aside money in our budget to improve our outreach and efforts to supplement the work that the IOUs are doing in partnership with the county, our office of emergency service and other NGOs as well as other partners, so there’s certainly been improvement in that space. The time and the total number of incidences has so far looked to have improved, meaning a year ago, I would have imagined more customers being impacted for a longer period of time. There’s more precision. There has been more communication, but we’re not where we’re going to be and not where we yet need to be.
Speaker 2: (49:56)
Angela Hart, Kaiser Health News.
Angela Hart: (50:00)
Thank you, Governor. There are so many crises right now and competing demands from these co-occurring crises slamming the state of California as you well know, and I just wanted to ask you how you’re balancing and how you’re thinking about these demands, and what are you really prioritizing? I mean, and does that fit that more evidence for what some lawmakers say is the need for a special session this year?
Governor Gavin Newsom: (50:25)
We’re prioritizing addressing the immediate needs as it relates to those that have been evacuated, those that are potentially impacted by these wildfires, continuing our suppression efforts. We’re prioritizing the suppression, the mitigation, the spread of these wildfires and COVID. We continue to work actively. It’s a 24-hour day, so I try to stretch the days as much as I can. Weekends are an opportunity to work and to address issues as well as try to balance priorities, including some 400 bills that are on my desk that deal with a myriad of issues across the …
Governor Gavin Newsom: (51:03)
My desk that deal with a myriad of issues across the spectrum. Already working this afternoon on next year’s budget, all these things we’re capable of doing, we are doing, and that’s what we’re hired to do and so I’m very proud of the team. Incredible work here at the Office of Emergency Service which is best-in-class and so we continue to do our job, continue to recognize that we need to do better going forward to address some of these tectonic issues that have been in the making for years and years and years and we’re going to hit those solutions head-on as well. So we’re prioritizing immediate and I think you get a sense from these presentations what those top priorities are in terms of what we are advancing and announcing particularly in relation to COVID and our work to mitigate these wildfires.
Speaker 3: (51:54)
Paul Rogers, Mercury News.
Paul Rogers: (51:58)
Hi Governor, on fires, you mentioned climate change but climate change was underway last year of course and far, far few fires acres burned as you noted at the top of the event today. Why do you believe that this has been such a bad fire year and second you toured Big Basin last week. I’m just curious what your vision is for rebuilding those historic buildings. Should they be rebuilt in the same style or something else?
Governor Gavin Newsom: (52:24)
Yeah, well I’m not an architect nor a historian but I have great admiration for architects and historians and I will defer to them. We already and we made this announcement when we were out there at our press conference, we’ve already received an outpouring of philanthropic inquiry and commitments of support to help rebuild those sites and so I’m humbled by that and I think all of us will be blessed by that largess and I have all the confidence in the world of our capacity to bring back some of those historic components and do our best to try to build memories for generations to come based upon the extraordinary contribution of those that designed and developed those sites in the first place.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (53:12)
As it relates to the issue of climate change, we are experiencing unprecedented confluence of issues this year that we did not experience last year, unprecedented record temperatures, a heat dome that impacted the entire West Coast of the United States, not just a few states on the West Coast. We are dealing with the reality of some 14,000 lightning strikes over a 72-hour period. Trust me, that did not occur last year, that had previously occurred in the late 1980s but when you add to the lightning strikes, the fact you have 150+ million dead trees related to a five plus year historic drought in the state of California, yes I conclude climate change profoundly has impacted the reality that we’re currently experiencing. It was a very different reality last year. Last year was actually a below-average fire season. This year again we’re dealing with challenges we haven’t seen in modern times, only analogous perhaps to the challenges we faced in 2018 under different circumstances but nonetheless we’ve already exceeded the total acreage burned so far and as every one of you have suggested, we’re just entering into fire season this year.
Speaker 3: (54:31)
Ryan Hill, CBS13.
Ryan Hill: (54:35)
Hi Governor. My question is in two parts. When it comes to the reopening of indoors, is the decline in the positivity rate leaning more towards the reopening that we’re seeing across these counties and two, we’re seeing obviously within the widespread and purple tier counties that hair salons can reopen but why can’t nail salons reopen considering they are governed by the same board within the state?
Governor Gavin Newsom: (55:01)
Yeah, so let me … I’ll ask Mark Ghaly to come back up because we went through a very comprehensive, very detailed process to make the determination of what falls within each of these tiers and where we landed as it relates to the process to move into those tiers and how strict we have been based upon our previous experience and based on experience of others across the state [inaudible 00:55:25] from folks around the rest of the world. So the epidemiology, the data makes that determination by Dr. Ghaly is here to talk more specifically perhaps around that specific issue around salons and the distinction we place between the activities in a hair salon versus the activities in a nail salon.
Dr. Mark Ghaly: (55:48)
Thanks again Governor and thank you for the question. We’ve been talking through this one quite a bit with a number of individuals. Again we had pretty good evidence not just here in California but broadly across the nation around hair salons and measures taken by barbers and hair salons to reduce transmission and put protective factors into place. We appreciate that other sectors are able to do similar things and as we move forward, we’ll consider the placement of some of these various sectors throughout our different tiers as we begin to develop increasing information about how each of these different sectors can reduce risk.
Dr. Mark Ghaly: (56:36)
Globally though, we want to make sure that this slow and stringent approach also builds up general mixing across the state, gradually introducing other sectors with different levels of operation. So we anticipate more and more of these conversations in our pursuit of safely having industries open across the state and we’re sure that over the next couple of weeks we’ll be having more conversations with nail salons, owners, operators, the industry as a whole, to figure out how to guide their opening and their operations in a place that allows us to minimize transmission across the state. We will of course be learning as we go through these next couple of weeks based on those industries that are operating now and increasing percentage of normal operations and be able to use those lessons to guide what we do [inaudible 00:57:39] again, pointing to the data, the evidence, watching as it evolves over the next many weeks to determine the path forward for the state.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (57:50)
[inaudible 00:57:50] let me if I may reinforce what Dr. Ghaly said, it’s an [inaudible 00:57:56] process and again one which we’re constantly engaged with our mind not made up but interested in evidence and the data bears fruit, the epi data shows us the way and provides us the capacity to make determinations. We will make those determinations in realtime. Includes by the way conversations that are ongoing just as a reminder for theme parks, amusement parks, and the like. There are still many areas where we are open-ended in terms of our negotiation, making progress and advancing in the same space, getting closer to concluding when and how to safely reopen those sectors.
Speaker 3: (58:37)
Phil Willon, LA Times.
Phil Willon: (58:40)
Hi Governor. I’m sure you are aware that this weekend, this past weekend, there was a prayer gathering at the State Capitol that drew about 3,500 people on the lawn. The video and photos of it clearly show that most people weren’t wearing masks, most people were standing shoulder to shoulder. The CHP issued a permit for the event even though gatherings of that size go against public health directives. I’m curious, where for you is the line between public health and First Amendment rights and do you think that this event crossed that line?
Governor Gavin Newsom: (59:14)
Yeah, I’m getting more information about the details of the event so I cannot opine about the nuance and details. Some report 12,000 people, you say 3,500, I heard as low as 2,500 from someone else so we’re in that process of gathering all those facts. As you know, our focus this weekend was a little bit different in terms of some emergency rescues and some efforts to deal with our energy supply as well as mitigate the spread of additional fires but we’re getting those details. I’m going to learn more about them this afternoon, getting a full report on what occurred over the weekend. Let me just say this though as a point of consideration. If you say you’re going to do something, do it.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (59:53)
If you get a permit to do something and you say you’re going to do the right thing, then you need to do the right thing, and you also, all of us, need to lead by example. If you’re going to request a permit, you’re going to put other people’s lives at risk. I think one has to do that with their eyes wide open very soberly and we all have to be I think cognizant of the reality, the spread of this disease. It does not help to have thousands and thousands of people not practicing physical distancing or social distancing, not wearing masks, in fact quite the contrary.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (01:00:29)
Quite literally someone can lose their lives and I know that’s not the intent of anyone that organizes these events, but it may be the outcome when you organize an event that grows larger than what you had asserted to be and those mitigations were not put into place and so I just want to express that as a foundational point in the spirit of your question and that includes any large, convening any large event, be it protest, be it organized, be it permitted, people must wear face coverings, people must practice the kind of social distancing that can mitigate the spread and transmission of this disease and it seems based upon at least the images that I’ve seen that that was not the case unfortunately with this event. More information will be presented to me and I know that you are the beneficiary among the many others of statements that the CHP has made in this space as well.
Speaker 3: (01:01:28)
Final question, Doug Sovern, KCBS Radio.
Doug Sovern: (01:01:32)
Hi Governor, thanks for taking the question. You’ve noted the improving numbers, the dramatic drop in positivity rate. There’s another number which you don’t typically discuss which is the R0 which is now below one statewide and in most counties, even the purple ones, which means the virus is no longer spreading so if so why shouldn’t the state accelerate the reopening process now and how do you guard against the people who see these numbers and maybe don’t remember what happened back in May and they let down their guard.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (01:01:59)
I think the latter part of your question was the answer to the first part of your question and as it relates to the issue of R0, I never talk R0, I have my doctor talk about R0 and so Dr. Ghaly will come up and talk specifically about that.
Dr. Mark Ghaly: (01:02:19)
Thanks Governor and thanks for the question. Indeed the R0 across the state has dipped below one. It still bounces around a bit and we should be happy that it’s below one for the time being but very cautious with activities over the weekend and the potential for increasing transmission as additional sectors open, as additional gatherings occur. We need to remain vigilant and confident that the trends are coming down, especially as we enter flu season, as we enter colder months where it’s harder to do things outdoors and things begin to move indoors. So although we field many questions about the pace of our framework and the interest by many to say can it move a little bit more quickly, we are confident that going slow and stringent is going to be the way that carries us forward and ensures that we don’t move back. So I’m very happy that people are tracking the R0, watching that, potentially a single person who is infected today may not … It may not be one to one that they infect someone else and over time that we’ll continue to see the numbers climb down or come down.
Dr. Mark Ghaly: (01:03:38)
I will just remind you that the R0 has for a while bounced around a bit and we’ll continue to watch it very closely and even though it’s below one, it can quickly rise above one and that is exactly what allows the numbers to take off that we then see in cases that we then see in the hospitals, the strain on the healthcare system, our inability to assure that we can take care of as many people who are sick and a situation we don’t want to find California in again. So continued caution and urge us to keep our guard up, to do the things that the governor reminds us, wash our hands, wear our mask, keep physically distanced, and if you’re experiencing any symptoms stay home, try to stay away from others so we don’t spread whether it’s COVID, the flu or anything else and we keep these infectious diseases in check in California throughout the next many months.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (01:04:36)
In the spirit of the question, let me just conclude by sharing another number that we did not share today and that was the number of lives lost, 32 lives were lost in this latest reporting period but that masks the number of lives that have been lost on an average daily basis, over 14 days, 107 lives lost on a daily basis on average over the last 14 days. It is another reminder of what Dr. Ghaly just said, how deadly this disease continues and remains to be and how the transmission continues and how incredibly important it is that when we are putting together events including events with one or two extended family members or neighbors or friends in our backyards that we do everything in our power to practice the physical distancing and the social distancing and to wear face coverings and masks which are the most important non-pharmaceutical interventions in slowing down the spread of this disease that we can advance and so I cannot impress upon people more, particularly coming out of Labor Day weekend, and the example of the large event that was demonstrable here at the State Capitol that we do everything in our power to rise up and elevate our capacity to lead by example and do what we can to extinguish the transmission and the spread of COVID-19.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (01:06:07)
So let me just thank all of you for the work you’ve done to get us to that 3.8% positivity rate, at least tracking over the last seven day period. Let me thank all those firefighters for extinguishing those wildfires, so many that have become household names and obviously the task that’s in front of us that’s self-evident in addressing the need to continue to be vigilant as we move deeper into this wildfire season. Take care everybody.