May 22, 2020
Governor Gavin Newsom May 22 California COVID-19 Briefing Transcript
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Gavin Newsom: (00:00)
The state of California, our CalVets leadership that’s assembled here, and Lisa and Stephanie, and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, who just in a moment, I’ll introduce, that we’re here on Memorial Day weekend, or the kickoff of Memorial Day weekend. It’s an important solemn weekend for families, for the opportunity for millions and millions of Americans to come together across their differences, take time to reflect and remember those that sacrificed their lives for the cause we hold dear, and that’s our freedom. Never to be taken for granted. Never to be forgotten. And it is appropriate, despite this pandemic and all the strife, the challenges, all the consternation that it brings, that we take this time together with our family and our loved ones to reflect and to remember.
Gavin Newsom: (00:51)
I know for our family, like so many others of you that are watching, this is an important weekend. My grandfather, Arthur Menzies, spent close to five years as a prisoner of war in Corregidor and Bataan, and he struggled and suffered, not only to survive in the interment camps but to come back into society where ultimately, tragically, he took his own life. As so many those that were torn asunder in conflict and in wars. It’s not just those that lose their lives on the battlefield, it’s those that lose their lives coming back home. They never left the battlefield.
Gavin Newsom: (01:30)
And so I want to just express my deep respect and admiration on Memorial Day also to veterans and those that have come back from these more contemporary wars oversee, and also just extend our heartfelt thank you and deep respect and acknowledgement to the challenges, travails, and struggles that so many of our veterans continue to have as they come back from those horrific experiences in combat and other experiences, noble experiences, related to their service at war.
Gavin Newsom: (02:08)
And so we’re here in that spirit, in their spirit, in that light of optimism and respect for the opportunities they’ve all provided us. And I just want to make a point as we are here to make this point. We not only hold those things dear in rhetorical terms, but in terms of our practices. And I want to just recognize the outstanding practice of leadership that is demonstrable, not just hear in Yountville, but in our eight vet homes throughout the state of California. Over 2000 veterans in these homes protected. Disproportionally so, because of the outstanding leadership of our Secretary of Veterans Affairs and his remarkable team and outstanding frontline staff.
Gavin Newsom: (02:59)
That is not something every governor in the state of California, rather across this country, not just in the state of California, can say. The reality is a lot of our veterans homes have been disproportionally impacted by COVID-19 and the spread of this virus. A lot of our American heroes from World War II, not just the Korean War, Vietnam War, or Iraqi freedom, and other wars, that are housed and supported in institutions like this have been immune from the spread of the virus. Quite the contrary. There have been some horrific headlines and tragic lives lost and examples where the insidiousness of this disease spread like wildfire through facilities like this across the country.
Gavin Newsom: (03:46)
That has not been the case. And I say this cautiously, soberly, not been the case to date in the state of California. Throughout our entire system, eight hospitals, we have had just three patients test positive for COVID-19. We’ve had a number of staff, but the overwhelming majority of staff, all but two have recovered and are back at work. And that’s because of the seriousness of purpose that was advanced weeks before California stay at home order was put into place by our Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
Gavin Newsom: (04:24)
These facilities are not immune to the challenges that are so often present in the lives of Californians, as it relates to wildfires, earthquakes, and other hazards. I think as a consequence, in many respects, of the emergency operation plans that facilities like this and others had already organized and practiced over the course of the last number of years in particular with so many wildfires, particularly in this region, but also in Southern California, that has hardened people’s senses and distilled a real focus and energy around protecting staff, protecting our patients and those we serve, the American heroes that are part of this system.
Gavin Newsom: (05:09)
As a consequence, Vito and his team were able to put together 38 specific prescriptive guidelines on infectious disease control, on temperature checks and symptom checks for patients as well as staff. Just coming in here today, you could see the seriousness of this, it’s like the TSA times infinity in terms of the number of checkpoints and people that are asking you personal questions about where you’ve traveled and your current symptoms and your health, doing temperature checks, people wearing masks throughout this facility, and the seriousness of the sanitation that has been put into place.
Gavin Newsom: (05:49)
It’s because of those protocols that we have been able to protect the most vulnerable Californians. These are folks that are getting therapeutic care, not just recreational support, but assisted living, skilled nursing facilities within these facilities, all levels of care that are being provided to our American heroes.
Gavin Newsom: (06:13)
And so I just couldn’t be more proud and privileged to have Vito and his team here, but more importantly, to have the Secretary of Veterans Affairs here to my right to say a few words and I think express, I hope, and I imagine, as he does so often privately, perhaps a little more publicly his appreciation to the frontline staff of these facilities that have gone above and beyond to protect some of our most vulnerable and heroic residents of this state and our nation. Vito.
Vito Imbasciani: (06:50)
Thank you so much. Good afternoon. Dr. Vito Imbasciani, Secretary of California Department of Veterans Affairs. I want to say, first of all, that I’m honored to have the trust of the governor of this great state in running these homes where we create an environment in our eight homes, from practically the Oregon border to the Mexican border, where we try to create a homelike atmosphere where veterans can feel safe and we respect their military tradition and honor them by their congregate living experience.
Vito Imbasciani: (07:22)
Before we came to this podium, the governor and I were further up the hill where this campus hosts a cemetery in which veterans of all of our wars are interred going back to the Civil War, and even earlier, the Spanish American War. This is hallowed ground and it’s full of veterans who, as is the case with people who are in nursing homes across the country, are an extraordinarily vulnerable population, not only by virtue of their august age, and we have veterans here in their 9th and 10th decades of life, going back to the early days of World War II, but by their underlying disease burdens and by the burdens that they incurred by putting on the nation’s uniform, picking up a weapon, and defending our nations in battlefields whose names you’re all familiar with.
Vito Imbasciani: (08:12)
So ever since my earliest years, I was a victim of the polio epidemic in the early 1950s. And I was in medical school at the University of Vermont when the HIV virus that caused AIDS became epidemic itself. And because of those experiences, I always follow the CDC reports on the emergence of rare and exotic diseases, wherever they are. And when I heard in December that a strange new disease, which was highly contagious and highly lethal, had emerged in Asia, I immediately convened our senior leadership.
Vito Imbasciani: (08:52)
We have a robust emergency operation plan for this and all the other campuses, it was made necessary by the fact that earthquakes and wildfires happen all the time. In fact, a wildfire three years ago came very close to one of our buildings on this campus.
Vito Imbasciani: (09:10)
We also have a plan to treat the epidemic that comes with flu every winter. So in early January, we started brushing off these things because I had a feeling that this could get out of control if the host nation, the nation of origin, could not control it. And by late January, when we realized that the virus had escaped Asia and was here in California, we started a process that ultimately culminated in a progressive way in 38 steps, which we are happy to share with everyone, that gradually closed down the campus to prevent the entry of the virus, which I was afraid would run wildfire through the veteran population.
Vito Imbasciani: (09:55)
And as the governor said, we did that, almost completely locking down the eight homes, about two weeks before the state of California went into a statewide stay at home closure order, thanks to the governor.
Vito Imbasciani: (10:10)
We have a number of systems in place. For example, the veterans homes have a physician in each home, and we have specially trained, registered nurses who are expert in infection control. We teach every one of our employees, all 3000 employees, it doesn’t matter what your job is, whether you’re a cook, a nurses aid or a groundskeeper, you know about infection control in our homes.
Vito Imbasciani: (10:36)
So to make a long story short, we took all the guidance of the VA and the CDC and the organs of public health, there’s nothing magical about what they wanted us to do. All their guidance is basically common sense, plus a 10th graders knowledge of germ theory. And we applied it to the veterans homes. We just did it a month before everyone else, and two weeks before the state. And I’m delighted that we have such success in protecting the wonderful men and women who are our connection to our past.
Vito Imbasciani: (11:14)
I lost my own father this week. He was 98 year old veteran of World War II, a Marine, fought in the Solomon Islands. We honor him, as we do all veterans who died defending this nation. That’s what Decoration Day, and now Memorial Day is. But our connection to that history is by honoring the men and women that live in all of our veterans homes.
Vito Imbasciani: (11:39)
And my final salute is to the extraordinarily talented and dedicated staff that I have at all the homes, the leadership, the rank and file. To work at CalVet and to work taking care of these veterans is not just a job, it’s a mission, and that probably explains why we have extraordinary attendance rates from all of our workers, even during the highest point of the pandemic. So thank you again, governor, for your trust in me, I’m delighted to do this job. Thank you.
Gavin Newsom: (12:10)
Thank you, Mr. Secretary and Dr. Mr. Secretary, and I think that’s an important point. There’s simply not a state in the nation that has Secretary of Veterans Affairs that also happens to be a doctor. And I think fundamentally and foundationally that has been determinative as well in keeping the infection rate down here.
Gavin Newsom: (12:32)
Not only, again, this facility, built in 1884, same time, for what it’s worth, the Washington Monument was built. It was that same year that gentleman by the name of Mark Twain finished the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. This facility went up. Still maintaining itself as the largest in the United States of America.
Gavin Newsom: (12:53)
We’ve got eight facilities in this state. Some are as small as just 60 or so, this with capacity that can get to 900, roughly 1000, roughly 750 people are being cared for currently at this facility.
Gavin Newsom: (13:08)
So again, I just want to thank the secretary, his team, and their outstanding leadership, the seriousness of purpose, as I suggest, that they have taken in terms of their mission. And I love that he frames this as a mission and a calling, not just a job and a vocation to help protect these American heroes.
Gavin Newsom: (13:27)
Let me extend as well a few updates that extend off the narrative of protecting the health of 40 million Americans in the state of California that reside here. We are now moving through, as many of you know, a variance process in the state as we make meaningful modifications to our original stay at home order. Many sectors of the economy in the state of California have already reopened as relates to manufacturing, warehousing, logistics, retail sector, reopening in real time, the restaurant industry…
Gavin Newsom: (14:03)
… all sector reopening in real time, the restaurant industry reopening, including in this region of the state. Currently 43 counties out of the 58 counties in the state of California have provided attestation of containment plans and protection plans that allow them to move deeper into phase two. We are putting more and more responsibility on counties, not only as we move through phase two, but also into phase three. We’re getting to reopen all sectors of our economy.
Gavin Newsom: (14:35)
This is happening in real time, and it’s an iterative and dynamic process. Today we have 43 that have self-attestation plans that have been put up. I expect by later this afternoon and early this evening, as many as 45 counties. We’ll expect even more over the course of the next number of days. Our commitment is to continue to work with city and county leaders all throughout the state of California to address their concerns and their particular issues.
Gavin Newsom: (15:08)
This process has been remarkably collaborative. There are a few examples that are exceptions in the state of California that tend to get highlighted disproportionately, but I just want to express this. They are exceptions, and the incredible spirit of collaboration and cooperation is demonstrable in the engagement with city and county health directors and city and county elected officials from every part of the state of California, and that includes faith leaders.
Gavin Newsom: (15:36)
On Monday of this last week I made a comment that was picked up by many, but perhaps not as many as I had hoped, that we were working with the faith community to advance the efforts, to begin to put out guidelines, processes, and procedures to keep the public health and safety of congregants and parishioners. We’ve been working throughout the diverse … well, the interfaith community, and within the diversity of our faith-based leadership all up and down the state, working on the differentiation, the large mega churches versus more neighborhood style churches, the different styles of pews and sanitation protocols and synagogues versus working with other faiths.
Gavin Newsom: (16:22)
We’ve been working on those sectoral guidelines, and we are just days away, at the latest on Monday, we will put out those guidelines. I want folks to know that I’ve made that abundantly clear in the last week, but not everybody has picked up on it, but it’s so important that folks understand that we deeply respect and admire the faith and devotion and the cause that unites millions of millions of Californians, people of faith and community. At a time of so much anxiety and uncertainty, faith and that devotion to something higher and better and bigger than yourself becomes even more pronounced and more profound and more important. I grew up in a Catholic family, went to Catholic schools. I went to university of Santa Clara, Santa Clara University, and I often reflect on how impactful the Jesuits were in terms of my upbringing, Father Kass and so many others that were so … Well, that have defined so much of my life. It’s just an expression of my deep respect, admiration for people of faith, and I want folks to know we are working to move those guidelines forward and we expect those guidelines to come out on Monday.
Gavin Newsom: (17:41)
By the way, just for full disclosure, we didn’t wait for the CDC guidelines, as many of you know. CDC guidelines haven’t even been made public in any meaningful way yet, but we do look forward. We are told that they’re coming out today to take a look at those guidelines and see if there’s things in there that we hadn’t already considered over the course of the last few weeks.
Gavin Newsom: (18:04)
One thing we have considered is as we open up the economy that the prospect of increased transmissions is self-evident. As people no longer are practicing with the kind of discipline they were, the physical distancing and the like, that we could see incidences of spread and concentrations of spread, and we need to be prepared for that. Part of the attestation plans that are required of counties, those 43 to date, are that they have to have the ability to toggle back and address the virulent spread of COVID-19 if indeed the numbers bear that out, hospitalization capacity, testing capacity, appropriate levels of PPE, protocols and procedures that keep their communities safe and healthy.
Gavin Newsom: (18:50)
Let me just give you an example of a county that continues to be of concern in the state of California, a county we care deeply about, and that’s Imperial County. I mentioned just a few days ago, and I’ve mentioned it on previous occasions, we’ve been watching Imperial County as a county that’s not densely populated, but is really one of the most beautiful counties in the state of California. It’s a County that has resources, but often those resources are stretched. They have a few hospitals in that County. Currently those hospitals are stretched because of the number of people that have COVID-related concerns into that hospital system.
Gavin Newsom: (19:33)
We’ve sent out a team and we are putting a field medical station in Imperial County, up to 125 beds to help decompress their hospital system. They’ve been utilizing ventilators. They were up to 70 plus percent of their ventilators in use last week. I mentioned that on a few separate occasions. Today it’s about 52%, but we’re making sure that we get down there with appropriate PPE and make sure that our Calmac teams are present, as well as Calguard is present. It gives you a sense of the kind of deployment that you may see in the future if we start to see some incidences of spread that cannot be contained, particularly in communities that don’t necessarily have the resources of other communities. It’s an expression of this, an expression of faith and devotion to this cause as well of your public health and the virulence of this disease.
Gavin Newsom: (20:26)
Look, we’re at a facility that stood, a sentinel facility that stood up in 1918 and 1919 through another pandemic and an influenza outbreak, and there was a second and third wave in that pandemic. There were elected officials and leaders that were the anti-mask brigade that were disgusted by the idea that people would appear so weak by having masks, as opposed to the strength that I think is the symbol of wearing a mask. So many of the tenants of that history … They say history doesn’t repeat itself, but it certainly rhymes. We need to be students of that history.
Gavin Newsom: (21:07)
We’re at a facility that lived through that history, and so I just want to caution everybody as we move through Memorial Day to appropriately spend time, reflect on American heroes and the cause of freedom that United each and every one of them, the purpose of Memorial Day and spending time with family, that we also do so in a thoughtful way and that we are cognizant of not only our loved ones, but the reality of the spread of this disease.
Gavin Newsom: (21:34)
We saw an increase in the number of positive cases yesterday in the state of California. We saw 88 more human beings, 88 more families torn apart because of deaths related to this virus in the last 24 hours. So if you, by any stretch of the imagination, think just because the sun has come up and there’s a sense of optimism that there’s more light, not just in surrounding environment, but at the end of this proverbial and figurative tunnel, those are proof points, but there’s also another reality that is stubborn. And that is the virulence of this disease remains and lives are continuing to be lost even here in the state of California that has done so much not to experience that huge increase in cases and actually is, and continues to, experience a decrease in terms of total number of hospitalizations, total number of people in ICUs.
Gavin Newsom: (22:35)
As I do in these press conferences, let me say, I will remind you again, that we are holding strong in that becoming more and more of a trend line that we’re not just seeing stability with hospitalizations in ICUs statewide, but we’re actually seeing a decline, 7.5% over a 14-day period in hospitalizations, a 6.1% decline in total number of people in ICUs. And by the way, those numbers are more significant than they may appear in this respect. Those come off relatively stable numbers over the course of many, many weeks. Remember we’re not coming off a peak and seeing precipitous decline, we’re coming off a relatively stable trend and still seeing some declines in ICUs and hospitalizations. And by the way, those are the 14-day trends, but we also saw a reduction yesterday.
Gavin Newsom: (23:28)
But, again, I caution all of you. None of us live in the aggregate. Those numbers are in the aggregate. Imperial County is just an example of a community not living in the aggregate. Other parts of the state, completely different conditions, little to no spread, no cases, and that’s why these variances are appropriate, and we’re very, very pleased by the progress many of those parts of the state are making, in terms of responsibly and safely reopening. More to come in that space.
Gavin Newsom: (23:59)
Final point I want to make, and that is to update you on two things that are also critical to continuing to make meaningful modifications to our state homeowner, and that’s our ability to trace, isolate, and quarantine individuals that may have come in contact with this disease. We announced a few weeks ago a partnership with UCSF and UCLA, a partnership with the University of California system to train tracers, to work with our existing infrastructure of close to 3000 tracers that already exists in our County health system, and to supplement that workforce. The goal is 10,000, the phase one goal, with the capacity to go up to about 18,000 with a second phase goal. We had 500 people that were our first cohort that were trained a week ago, 300 people are in this new cohort, and now we have a workforce of roughly 5% of those that are not in 24/7 jobs within the state of California that will provide us the human capital to get trained and commit six months to become part of this tracing core that will get us to that 10,000 goal.
Gavin Newsom: (25:18)
Today, we launched California Connected, and that’s a PSA campaign to explain to people what tracing really is and what it’s not, because none of us are naïve. I’m certainly not naïve. When you get a call from some stranger on the phone saying they work with government, not everybody is pleased to receive those calls. Some may actually think it’s fraudulent. Some may just be more reticent to tell the truth about what’s going on or even comfortable spending time having a two-way conversation. That’s why it’s really important as we train the tracers and build off the existing infrastructure that’s been in place for years and years as it relates to tracing other diseases like measles and tuberculosis, HIV, and AIDS, hepatitis, again, well-established over the course of decades in this state that we do so anew for COVID-19.
Gavin Newsom: (26:16)
What makes this PSA efforts so different is the cultural competency. That’s part of it. We’re reaching out to communities that traditionally have not been reached out to as it relates to infectious disease control, translating not just documents in multiple languages, but getting trusted messengers from within communities to let folks know that it’s in not only their interests, but their community and their loved ones interests to work with these trained professionals and provide information in a confidential manner. None of this information is shared. None of this information will ever, ever leave the vault that is a public health frame.
Gavin Newsom: (27:03)
This is all about mitigating spread and allowing us to move, to reopen our economy much, much faster than we otherwise would. While testing has substantially improved, and by the way, one and a half million tests have now been conducted, those are PCR tests not the antibody tests. There’s some states, lovingly I say this, that are conflating the antibody tests and PCR tests. We’re not. Those are just the traditional swab- based PCR tests that you’ve become well accustomed to in the media and maybe personally for those of you that have been tested. Our testing now is averaging over 45,000 tests a day. The good news, the positivity rate is holding steady. Why does that matter? I’ll remind everybody. It’s foundational. As you exponentially increase, and remember we were doing 2000 tests a day just six or so weeks ago. Now we’re doing over 45,000 tests a day. When you increase the number of tests you’re going to by definition-
Gavin Newsom: (28:03)
…test today. When you increase the number of tests, you’re going to, by definition, likely see an increase in the total number of positives. What we look at though, is percentage of people testing positive to those, the denominator, that have been tested. We have been about 4.1% on positivity rate over the last seven days. That’s very encouraging. It’s been 4.4%, if you pull back over a 14 day period, but those positivity rates are holding steady, even as our testing substantially improves and increases. And I say improves, not just increases because the improvement is where we’re doing the tests, focusing on rural parts of the state, getting more testing facilities in Northern California, up in Mendocino and Lake counties, and also within our diverse populations in the state into black and brown communities. The partnerships with [inaudible 00:28:55] have advanced that cause. And I’ll continue to remind all of you on COVID- 19.ca.gov on COVID-19.ca.gov.
Gavin Newsom: (29:04)
You can type in your zip code and you can make a determination of the availability of free testing that is proximate to your residence. And we are doing our best to get up more sites in real time and know that testing is also foundational, but the tracing and tracking then become the then what question after someone has been tested positive and making sure that we don’t see a spread of additional cases. So, progress being made in both places and finally progress with PPE. Today, I get my morning inventory; over 86.4 million procedure masks have now come into the state. These large contracts that have gotten so much attention are producing real results, and those results are very, very relevant to the reopening of our economy because those masks come in, those masks go out, not just to facilities like this, but also to sectors that can help open the economy quicker. Getting them into the grocery sector, the food supply sector, the logistics and manufacturing sector.
Gavin Newsom: (30:11)
So again, good news on the PPE, progress on the tracing and tracking, and progress on testing, though, again, all of those things have to continue to improve. No one’s naive about that, and progress on the reopening of the California economy. And so, I wanted just to leave you with that as we move into the weekend. In the spirit of some optimism, more guidelines coming out over the course of the next days and certainly into the latter part of next week, even more will be statewide as well as regional. So, that’s the purpose of today and update, as always, at these press conferences. And now, look forward to answering any questions.
Scott Schafer: (30:57)
Hi governor, Scott Shafer from KQED. I’ll be asking questions today on behalf of journalists across the state and beyond. No surprise, a number of outlets are curious about your thoughts on President Trump’s comments today. He called church’s essential and said that he’ll override governors who do not allow houses of worship to resume in person services immediately. And as you know, there were some 1200 churches in California that have announced their intention to ignore the shelter in place directive. So, what is your response to the president’s statement, and what is your plan for churches? I know you said you’re going to be saying more on Monday or even sooner.
Gavin Newsom: (31:30)
Yeah, no, we said going back the beginning of this week, we’ve said a lot in this space that we’ve been engaging faith community. We look forward to churches reopening in a safe and responsible manner. And we have guidelines that we anticipated completing on Monday, and we’re on track to do just that. We appreciate the CDC is apparently going to be providing today, we’re told, some recommendations. We’ll take a look at those, but we haven’t waited around for the federal administration’s recommendations in this space. We take the issue very, very seriously and to heart. And we have been very aggressive in trying to put together guidelines that will do justice to people’s health and their fundamental need and desire to practice their faith. And so, we are looking forward to a very positive working relationship with faith leaders as we make public those documents and look forward to working through this issue in the spirit of cooperation and collaboration.
Scott Schafer: (32:37)
Any response to what the president said?
Gavin Newsom: (32:40)
I think that was an adequate response.
Scott Schafer: (32:43)
All right. KCRW TV in Sacramento is asking, did you work with casinos that are reopening? What is your message to those large groups?
Gavin Newsom: (32:50)
Yeah, we’re close as I said as well on Monday that we believe around the 8th of June, plus or minus. These days are just tent poles of approximate timelines where we are putting out guidelines, not just for casinos, but card rooms as well. I had some wonderful phone calls within this sector, tribal leaders just a few days ago, 100 plus tribal leaders, getting their feedback and they’re helping us organize the guidance. They have been incredible in terms of not only being supportive of the engagement, but providing us some incredibly enriching and robust ideas on public health.
Gavin Newsom: (33:35)
One of the largest tribes in the United States that happens to be here in the state of California has been consulting with John Hopkins university, have been working very collaboratively with their county health director. They’ve provided us some really remarkable and robust and detailed ideas that we believe can be advanced as best practices across the sector. It’s an example of the collaborative spirit. I know there are a few here and there that have decided to move a little bit earlier against the advice of their local county health directors, but the vast majority are working very collaboratively with the state and we’re looking forward to putting out those guidelines in just a matter of days and weeks.
Scott Schafer: (34:17)
Governor, a question from Jeremy White at Politico. As you know, there was a lawsuit filed yesterday by congressional candidate Daryl Eissa and others challenging the legality of your vote by mail executive order. How concerned are you about that adding uncertainty to the November election, and will you push for legislation from the state legislature to be on firmer legal?
Gavin Newsom: (34:37)
No, we’re on firm legal ground. Vote by mail is not novel in the state of California, nor was it in a recent special election, but we are confident in the effort. We believe it’s the right thing, and we also believe it’s a nonpartisan issue. Public health is a nonpartisan issue. We want to keep people safe, and you’ll still have points of contact for people that are disabled, people that are not as familiar with vote by mail will still have those points of contact for in person voting opportunities, but we needed to move forward a sense of urgency, so we could prepare for the election. Many people know, Utah, hardly a liberal state, has been doing vote by mail for years, not just Oregon and a few others. I think there’s five plus states that do vote by mail, but I think it’s a responsible thing to do, to encourage people to vote and have an alternative to waiting in line and potentially, especially going back into the fall and experiencing a second wave that could put that election at risk. I think elections are too important. I think Mr. Eissa’s elections too important.
Scott Schafer: (35:46)
So just to affirm, you do not need the legislature or don’t think the legislature needs to weigh in at all?
Gavin Newsom: (35:52)
I think it’s always healthy when people weigh in, and the extent legislature, which by the way, trust me, weighed in, worked very collaboratively with us on the executive order. More importantly, it’s been working very collaborative with the secretary of state, and we appreciate their work and extent they want to codify it, I think that could help as well. Why not?
Scott Schafer: (36:13)
Question from my colleagues at KQED, the state’s guidance still directs Californians to quote, “Not gather with any number of people who are not members of your household.” Do you expect changes to guidance around small gatherings, and how does this fit into the reopening roadmap you’ve created for businesses and schools?
Gavin Newsom: (36:30)
Yeah, this all is part of a [inaudible 00:36:33] process. We said, it’s a dynamic process, and all of this will begin to change. Every single point of reference, specific and general, that’s reflected in that stay at home order, we expect to change. So the answer is yes, we expect that to change, by definition. This is not a permanent state. We are in this current stay at home order because a state of emergency because of the spread of COVID-19. It wasn’t last year; it was just a few weeks ago that this was brought to everybody’s attention in very acute ways, including the president, who universally was focused on the needs of states, ventilators, personal protective gear, and actually was criticized in I think one state for moving too quickly to reopen, just a few weeks ago, not years ago. It’s a way of expressing this. I want folks not to develop amnesia that this disease is still with us and people literally are dying. People are losing their lives, including 88 families completely destroyed this Memorial Day and are mourning for the loss of a loved one.
Gavin Newsom: (37:43)
And we need to protect people and the extent that we are guided by health, we are, by science, by data. A lot of good data coming out in terms of stability and spread, but that’s because of the extraordinary work of 40 million Californians practicing physical distancing. I just encourage them to continue to do the same, and the more we do to stabilize the situation, the quicker we’ll be able to move forward with those modifications. But again, this is not months and months of a permanent state. It’s a dynamic state, and every week, every week we will be making modifications, we anticipate, to that stay at home order, as we did this week and have previewed for next week.
Scott Schafer: (38:26)
Governor, a question from Associated Press. Assembly Budget Chair Phil Ting pointed out today that the state doesn’t declare emergencies and give you complete authority to do whatever you want, those may be his words, when we’re fighting things like heart disease and cancer. The question is now that we are two months into this pandemic and the number of hospitalizations have stabilized, do you still believe you need these emergency powers to spend public money with little oversight? Why or why not?
Gavin Newsom: (38:52)
There seems to be a lot of oversight as it relates to those things, contracts being made public, I think five, six, seven, eight, 10 hearings that have been conducted. So, I think that’s encouraging. I encourage it, and I think it’s appropriate, and I look forward. I’ve been looking forward to legislature coming back for months now. And so, there are plenty of things that are on my desk that I’m happy to handover in terms of issues that need to be addressed, and I look forward to engaging them as I’ve engaged the chair of the budget personally, directly on multiple occasions over the last many weeks and certainly many days, including a number of recent meetings related to the budget, and I applaud his oversight and his stewardship.
Scott Schafer: (39:36)
Question from Brody Levesque at the LA Blade; a report from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law found that over 200,000 LGBT people in California have one or more medical conditions that put them at high risk of COVID-19, including HIV. There’s still no data points forthcoming as promised by your administration in regard to the pandemics impact on the LGBTQI community. Will you issue an executive order to implement the necessary changes to commence gathering these critically needed data points for the impact?
Gavin Newsom: (40:05)
What I love about that question, it’s a wonderful bookmark. The previous question was governor, you need to work with the legislature. This question is how can you bypass the legislature and decide an executive order? As I just said in the last question and answer, I’ll answer it consistently. I look forward to working with the legislature. I’ve now on four separate occasions, been asked that question specifically on four separate occasions. I expressed a deep desire to reconcile this, but also was very specific about how proud I am to work with Scott Wiener, who’s got a bill on this, and working with Scott and many other members of the legislature, including the LGBTQ caucus of which I had the privilege of spending some time with a week ago. They have a bill; they would like to advance that bill. We are working very collaboratively to do exactly what needs to be done, and that’s to reconcile an historic fact that predates the current pandemic and that is issue of data collection, the lack thereof in the LGBTQ community.
Scott Schafer: (41:09)
Question from Doug Sovereign at KCBS. Many hospitals and medical professionals are still struggling to procure adequate PPEs and are even reusing masks. I know you said millions of masks are in the pipeline, but how are restaurants and retail stores supposed to compete to get masks, sanitizer and other protective equipment they need in order to reopen safely under the new guidelines?
Gavin Newsom: (41:29)
So, over two weeks ago, in fact, two weeks ago to the day, I believe we announced, though the days and weeks go by, so I may be off. We announced 11 million masks had been distributed just on that Friday. I announced exactly where they were distributed. You may recall, we distributed to Department of Education masks, to in-home support service workers, to our childcare facilities. We announced millions and millions of masks went to farm workers in this state, and I also announced millions of masks went into our food sector…
Gavin Newsom: (42:03)
… State. And I also announced millions of masks went into our food sector, including grocery stores, not just large chains, but need desire to get into smaller grocery stores. The reason I went through that litany a few weeks back, and the reason I highlighted those 11 million masks was not in anticipation of that question, but in recognition of the need to provide more personal protective gear so that we can reopen our economy in a much more swift robust way. The reason I began today’s comments by mentioning the 80 plus million procedure masks that have come in was to basically double down on our not only recognition of the importance of appropriate levels of personal protective gear, beginning substantively with the issues of masks, but to make the cases I’ve made earlier this week and in multiple occasions over previous weeks that we need to get those masks out, not just within the hospital system and the alternative care system, but now into the economy.
Gavin Newsom: (43:04)
And that includes to sectors of our economy. They include those that were highlighted in the question, but also additional sectors of the economy, including salons. As you may have notice a week or so ago, I announced that we were within a week, we still are now days of announcing a loosening of our stay at home order for barbershops and for salons. We now have a constructive process as it relates to personal care industry, broadly defined and making sure we get feedback to put out guidelines in that space. PPE is a big part of that conversation to the extent that the State of California can service that gap, recognizing how difficult it’s been for everybody to procure PPE. That is exactly what we have done and intend to continue to do.
Speaker 3: (43:56)
Governor, question from Jacquelyn McClean of KFSN ABC 30 in the central valley. What actions will the State take against counties that reopened into phase three without state approval? For example, just this week, the Tulare County board of soups voted to allow its County to reopen into phase three yet the County continues to see high daily positive test results and deaths.
Gavin Newsom: (44:16)
It breaks my heart. It should break your heart. Families of loved ones that are impacted that may not have been impacted by COVID-19, may have a loved one, lost their life would not otherwise lost their life because people aren’t working the spirit of collaboration with their health professionals that understand the virulence of this disease and understand the consequences of being flippant about the moment. I am deeply sensitive and I have deep admiration and respect for the elected officials of Tulare County. I want them to know that, and I want them to know, I understand their deep desire that I share to reopen every aspect of economy, go back to normalcy that we had just a hundred days ago. And as they are well aware, we are working collaboratively with them, but they want to go deeper into the next phase against the advice of a lot of our health officials.
Gavin Newsom: (45:14)
And to the extent we’ll continue to collaborate and continue to cooperate. We may have areas of disagreement. By the way it’s interesting, the County officials have disagreed with a lot of the city officials or the city officials are saying, “Don’t put this pressure on us. We don’t want to go as quickly.” So it’s a dynamic that will work itself out. This is again an exception, overwhelming majority of Counties are working very, very collaboratively. I don’t wake up to look to be punitive. I want to be responsible and respectful to the deep economic challenges that all of us are facing. And that’s why the vast majority of the sectors of our economy have opened.
Gavin Newsom: (45:55)
But again, these modifications I know are difficult and are very vexing for business leaders as they navigate these very, very difficult times. And so I just want to reflect an empathetic… well, sense of empathy and understanding to those that have disagreements and respect. But I hope that they know we look forward to working with them and I don’t take comments and resolutions personally.
Speaker 3: (46:29)
Governor, question from Joe Matthews from Socolow Public Square. Before COVID a third of Californians, including half our kids were on MediCal, now those numbers are going up even more. Is MediCal really strong enough to serve 14 or 15 million Californians and to get them timely access to high quality healthcare? Is it sustainable?
Gavin Newsom: (46:50)
It depends how you define sustainable, it’s situational. Situationally, we’re required to do more and do better. And so the answer is in the current short term, yes, we have to absorb those responsibilities, but there are trend lines over the course of decades, as it relates to adequacy of care, cultural competency of care, geographic disparity of care, need and desire to train more doctors and have more rural areas of support, reimbursement rates in that space. We had made a lot of progress in the first year of our administration. I compliment Governor Brown for the progress he made in his administration. We have a blueprint for real reform. It was referred to in my State of the State and in my January budget as Cal aim, it was a $695 million appropriation to Cal aim that I was hoping to make this year working with budget chair Phil Ting and others, we felt it was inappropriate with all of the magnitudes of the cuts to put forth those reforms at this stage because of the change in economic conditions. But I’m committed longterm to those reforms.
Gavin Newsom: (48:04)
So the answer to the question is longterm, no, but we’re not committed to the status quo longterm. We’re committed to reforms. We have the architecture, Cal aim for those reforms and the supports that we provided in terms of reinforcement rates, new medical schools that we want to put up, the work we’re doing to reimburse people that support MediCal beneficiaries and paying off their medical debts. A whole panoply of reforms that are part of our package of substantively answering a very profoundly important question that deserves more than just a soundbite response.
Speaker 3: (48:40)
Governor. Last question from Kevin Jamara of Politico. And it’s one I think a lot of parents are wondering about. Will summer camps and day camps be allowed to open this summer?
Gavin Newsom: (48:49)
Yeah. And we’re working very, very closely… In fact, I was just with the talking head of the California Teachers Association is just one example, but profoundly important example of leadership in this space, reflecting his members’ concerns and reminding me of what I think all of us should be reminded of.
Gavin Newsom: (49:08)
And that is the nature of our system. That’s so decentralized throughout the State of California. Not only are we 58 Counties, 470… almost 480 cities, but we’re over a thousand school districts in the State of California. Independently led with a deep appreciation and recognition that localism is profound as much as it is pronounced. The LCFF process that was developed under the previous administration went very specifically to this framework and advanced that cause I think in an appropriate way. So will the cause of reopening, recognizing that it’s a bottom up process, not a top down process. It’s a long way of saying this, that we have been working with many, many stakeholders in this space. Not least to which the superintendent of public education, the head of the State School Board, Linda Darlene Hammond and many, many others to work to put out guidelines, not only for reopening schools with the flexibility that are required to address learning loss associated with the end and the disruption of our school year because of COVID-19.
Gavin Newsom: (50:24)
But also in the space of summer schools. We have guidelines that will be updated. We already have had guidelines out and have been updated on multiple occasions for childcare facilities. Those will be updated and out next week as well. We have summer camp and summer school guidelines that we’re also working on. Expect many of those guidelines to be made public within a week or so. I want to give people plus or minus this three day holiday may delay for a day or two, but we are working very, very aggressively to make sure it’s an inclusive process and to makes sure before we put something out that people feel comfortable with what’s put out and there are no big surprises. I’m a parent of four. My oldest is 10, youngest just turned four, and I can assure you a big part of the tradition of my family are summer camps.
Gavin Newsom: (51:21)
Or becoming more and more of a tradition of summer school. And the issue of learning loss is profoundly important to me as it is millions of others in the State of California. I deeply want to be able to answer the question. My kids ask me as well as kids all across, “When can I go to camp or can I go to camp? And if summer school is going to open, what’s it going to look like?” I just did a PSA for LA Unified School District as one example on their summer school effort. But a lot of that was around distance learning in that space. So again, this is a dynamic space and one has to recognize the regionalism and the localism that defines the education space broadly, as well as the variations that are being advanced as it relates to public health and public safety through our modification of the stay at home order, that will also be determinative in terms of recognizing the needs of summer camps and the public needs and public health, not just safety of our children.
Gavin Newsom: (52:22)
I want to thank everybody as always for the privilege and opportunity of sharing some of these thoughts and updates with all of you. We are making progress reopening this economy. Make no mistake, we are moving these modifications forward and meaningful modifications are being made. And you’re seeing that translated in not only new guidelines, but the opening of restaurants throughout the State of California, retail throughout the State of California, soon churches, places of worship throughout the State of California. And it can’t come anytime too soon. We hope our school’s in a safe and responsible way. Protecting our caregivers, protecting our teachers, protecting our support staff and our students and their parents always top of mind, before we move aggressively in that space. I encourage everybody as you move forward aggressively into a beautiful weekend that usually brings people together. Please, to the extent possible, stay regionally, stay close to the cohort that you’ve been with to the extent you go out and you should do so thoughtfully and abide by local health considerations and guidelines and wear face coverings as appropriate.
Gavin Newsom: (53:42)
But I hope you do so safely and enjoy yourselves. We are beginning to turn the page, not only in this country, but substantively in this State. And I really feel confident that the best is yet to come. But again, that’s a sober point and I don’t need to remind you that it will be our decisions that will determine that fate and that future. And so continue to do the great work all of you have done. And let us take time, all of us and pause and reflect that freedom is not something that we just inherit, it’s something you got to fight for, something you can’t take for granted. And let us remember our heroes, those warriors, those folks that had one cause in common, now is the cause of freedom to protect our liberties and to protect our way of life. And that’s why we’re here in their spirit and in that light. And we hope you reflect upon millions and millions of Americans best this weekend and enjoy your Memorial Day. Take care everybody.