Announcing the state's ICU cases had tripled and hospitalizations had doubled in the past four days, California Governor Gavin Newsom called on recent retirees and healthcare students nearing degrees to join the state's efforts to fight COVID-19 through the newly launched CA Health Corps.
Newsom said he hopes the new Health Corps will increase the number of healthcare workers by thousands as the state prepares for an overwhelmed healthcare system. He said retired doctors, nursing students, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), and other professionals would be paid a salary and be given malpractice insurance.
California has 1,432 COVID-19 patients in hospital beds, 597 of whom are in ICU beds, a number expected to grow in the next few weeks.
"If you're a nursing school student, a medical student, we need you," he said. "If you just retired in the last few years, we need you."
Newsom said there are as many as 37,000 people eligible to work under the newly formed health corps, and said the Army Corps of Engineers has looked at 15 sites and will look at four more for surge capacity of medical beds.
California has more than 6,000 cases of coronavirus, but the true number is thought to be higher. Newsom did not provide a prediction for when the state will hit a peak in patients but said the state is still working on increasing hospital capacity by 50,000 beds and increasing ventilators by 10,000 to prepare for it.
Right now, hospitals are not overwhelmed, California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly said. He said those who need beds and ventilators are getting them. Newsom said the state had already identified 4,000 of the 10,000 ventilators the state has projected it will need.
"We're in the middle of this," Newsom said when questioned if the stay-at-home order had slowed the spread in the Bay Area as had been suggested in recent days. "We believe very strongly the stay at home order has helped advance our efforts at reducing the stress on the system that would have materialized in more acute ways."
Ghaly said based on the state's modeling, a peak could occur in late May.
Newsom, who yesterday said the federal government had sent 170 "broken" ventilators, warned against putting too much weight behind claims of fast COVID-19 tests."The scalability of some of these testing protocols … is not there," he cautioned. Newsom said "tens of thousands of tests have been conducted" but do not have results. "The number of pending tests out there is extraordinarily frustrating."