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Gov. Newsom Wants New Protections For Essential Workers

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Gov. Gavin Newsom today said he wants to see additional safeguards and preventative measures to protect essential workers, who have been hard hit by COVID-19.

"Not enough focus candidly has been placed on essential workers in this state," he said in today's update on California's response to coronavirus. Newsom mentioned grocery store workers, food delivery truck drivers, warehouse workers and other people who provide healthcare, food and shelter.

He mentioned expanding Project Roomkey so if someone who is an essential worker feels ill, they can quarantine themself.

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"The most important thing we can do is if someone is sick or feeling sick or has been exposed to the virus, we've got to give them the supports where they have the ability to isolate and, in some cases, to quarantine," Newsom said.

He also cited a program "Housing for the Harvest" that provides places for farm workers to isolate and quarantine if they are exposed to or test positive for the virus. The state plans to expand that program, which currently operates in Monterey, to cover more of California's 626,000 crop workers in the Central Valley, Central Coast, and Imperial Valley.

Newsom also announced a major scale-up of awareness campaigns designed to let workers know their employers have a responsibility to pick up costs associated with testing for employees.

The state released an Employer Playbook for reopening today with industry-specific guidelines, instructions for how to manage an outbreak at a workplace and information about compliance and enforcement. Newsom made it sound like officials may step up enforcement but their efforts would focus on compliance rather than being punitive.

He said he would work with the state legislature to establish the authority to compel businesses to report outbreaks to local health authorities.

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Newsom also cited gaps in California's paid sick leave that he said state legislators are working to close.

"We want to open the economy quickly," he said. "People that are feeling sick, we don't want them going to work and infecting other people, having a big outbreak where now a factory or a meat processing plant [or] any business has to shut down. You want to give them the protection so that you can be protected and customers can be protected."

The governor also urged people to remain vigilant and adhere to physical distancing and other safety protocols. "I don't mean to remind you, perhaps, that [on] weekends where we certainly take off the suit and tie and may take down our guard a little bit, that's where we have started to see some spread of this virus. So I encourage you when you're mixing outside your household, if you have to do that, wear the masks and physically distance. Don't let down your guard."

THE NUMBERS

  • Newsom said California tested almost 138,000 people yesterday and 9,718 of those people tested positive for COVID-19.
  • The seven-day positivity rate is 7.5%. On Monday, it was 7.4%, so that figure is holding fairly steady.
  • Hospitalizations are increasing — but not at the rate that they were two weeks ago. This week, we're seeing a 9% increase in hospitalization. Two weeks ago, they were icnreasing by 28%. "That is nothing to jump up and down about. These are statewide numbers and they mask the reality in different parts of the state," Newsom said.
  • Like the number of hospitalizations, the number of ICU admissions is increasing at a slower rate than it was a couple weeks ago.
  • Newsom said the state has approximately 12,000 available ventilators.
  • Newsom also said California is going to be doing more pooled testing and he may have an announcement about a new testing strategy next week.
  • Above, you can watch the live video of Newsom's full comments.

MORE ON CORONAVIRUS

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