8 Military field hospitals coming to California to meet projected need for hospital beds

Fairfield Daily Republic, by Glen Faison, March 22, 2020 at 12:45 am
Gov. Gavin Newsom provides an update on the state’s response to the new coronavirus during a press conference in Sacramento, Saturday, March 21, 2020 (Screen grab from video)

FAIRFIELD — Eight U.S. Army medical field units are on their way to California and will be prepositioned to meet an anticipated need for more hospital beds across the state as the new coronavirus sickens more and more people, the governor said.

Gov. Gavin Newsom thanked both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence for their role in bringing the medical field units to the state.

“That’s going to provide 2,000-bed capacity for the state of California,” Newsom said.

The announcement came Saturday as Newsom provided an update that touched heavily on the strategic challenges of addressing the spread of the new coronavirus, but also on the human challenges faced by those whose lives have been disrupted.

“This has been a very challenging time,” he said. “At the same time it is a remarkable moment.”

Newsom said a cache of medical supplies has arrived in the state from the federal government and is being distributed – masks, gowns, gloves and the like. Three more similar shipments are expected in the near future. That’s in addition to distributions from the state’s reserve of medical supplies, he said.

Newsom outlined recent actions to enhance the number of hospital beds available throughout the state. And he touched on ways to radically expand the amount of space that can be converted to accommodate additional hospital beds. He gave as examples the conversion of hotel rooms and University of California and California State University dormitories to serve as hospital rooms. He mentioned use of convention centers and county fairgrounds for such purposes.

“I can’t tell you how many sporting leagues, not just owners of teams, in this state have said, you know what? You want our arena? You can have our arena,” the governor said.

The process of testing for exposure to the virus, a process that continues to expand, should be targeted to meet identified objectives, he said.

“The bottom line for us is, we want to know what the spread is. We want to know if we’re bending the curve. We want to know if our stay-at-home orders are effective. That’s fundamentally the point of testing in terms of the broader sample,” Newsom said. “The more specific need for testing is self-evident: to change medical protocols; to address the deep anxieties our seniors have, the people with compromised immune systems. All of them should be prioritized – people that are in the hospitals that have symptoms and most significantly, our caregivers, to make sure they remain healthy throughout this process.”

Newsom advised others, particularly the young, to assume that they have been exposed to the virus and are contagious, even if they do not have symptoms.

“Just use common sense. Be a good neighbor. Be a good citizen,” he said.

Newsom had strong words for young people who are flouting the stay-at-home order and social distancing requirements that are currently in place to help arrest the spread of the virus that causes Covid-19.

“Those young people still out there on the beaches thinking this is a party: Time to grow up. You know, time to wake up,” he said. “Time to recognize it’s not just about ‘the old folks,’ it’s about your impact on their lives. Don’t be selfish. Recognize that you have a responsibility to meet this moment as well.”

The state remains focused on meeting the needs of those who are most vulnerable to the disease, to include seniors and the unsheltered homeless. Part of that is securing motel rooms – up to 51,000 – to house the homeless, and negotiating to secure additional assisted-living beds.

Newsom said the addition of the medical field units as well as agreements to identify and secure almost 1,000 additional hospital beds at specific locations supports the goal to add thousands of beds of capacity to the state’s inventory to meet the projected need.

He said the state has 416 hospitals with a staffed bed capacity of 78,000. Newsom said the state needs 19,500 more beds to meet the state’s midway projections. The hospital system has a surge capacity of a bit more than 10,000 beds, he said.

Newsom said the state will soon turn its focus to the prison system. Solano County is home to California State Prison-Solano and the California Medical Facility, both in Vacaville.

Visitation has already been suspended within the state prison system to help stop the spread of the virus.

“We are working very aggressively to make sure that the folks within that system are getting appropriate support, that those with flu-like symptoms are getting isolated,” he said.

Newsom praised the overall response thus far but said there’s more to do.

“We need more support from the federal government, and I’m very, very encouraged by the conversations we’re having on the USS Mercy, on the conversations we’ve had direct with the president and the vice president on the strategic stockpile and the work that we’re doing not just with HHS but DoD on getting these mobile field hospitals out in the state of California as well.”