Coronavirus: Newsom says 56% of Californians are expected to be infected with COVID-19, asks Trump to send hospital ship

SACRAMENTO (KABC) -- California health officials predict that about 56% of the state's population -- 25.5 million people -- will be infected with the novel coronavirus within the next eight weeks, Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a letter to President Donald Trump.

The letter, dated March 18, echoes a phone conversation with Trump on Tuesday in which Newsom formally requested that the Navy's USNS Mercy, the largest hospital ship in the world, be deployed to California.

"The acquisition of the Mercy here off the coast of the state of California would provide additional 1,000 bed capacity, provides support for pharmacists and other diagnostic equipment," said Newsom.

"This resource will help decompress the health care delivery system to allow the Los Angeles region to ensure that it has the ability to address critical acute care needs, such as heart attacks and strokes or vehicle accidents, in addition to the rapid rise of COVID-19 cases," Newsom said.

A spokesperson for the governor said the projection shows why it's so critical that Californians take action to slow the spread of the disease - and those mitigation efforts aren't taken into account in those numbers. The spokesperson added that the state is deploying every resource at its disposal to meet this challenge and is continuing to ask for the federal government's assistance in this fight.

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The governor is working closely with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to protect the state's homeless population from the virus, particularly the most vulnerable with pre-existing conditions.

The state is supplying local governments with $150 million, and with the help of the American Red Cross the city of Los Angeles will open 6,000 beds at 42 recreation centers.

"If we take these emergency shelter beds and add in our bridge shelter beds, this means we can bring 7,000 unhoused Angelenos off the streets and into emergency housing - the most in recent memory, maybe ever in the city's history," said Garcetti.

Ten years ago, then-Los Angeles Police Department Chief Bill Bratton "said what would it take to clean up skid row and he actually said a pandemic," said Any Bales, CEO of the Union Rescue Mission in downtown Los Angeles. "It's unfortunate that that's what it's taken, but man am I glad to see so many people making so places for people to go."
Bales with skid row's Union Rescue Mission praised all the resources that are coming together to protect the homeless population against COVID-19. Three hundred hand-washing stations and 120 mobile bathrooms have already been set up at encampments.

"I'm hoping we don't return to putting people on the streets," said Bales. "That this all teaches us that we all live a better life housed than unhoused together when we immediately help people get off the streets and stay off the streets."

Newsom said Wednesday that the state typically received an average of 2,000 unemployment insurance claims a day, but on Tuesday, received 80,000.

Some 1,600 beds for the homeless are expected to be online by end of this week at 13 recreation centers.

Garcetti said today Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority will continue operating busses and trains and will "never close."
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