SACRAMENTO (CBSLA) – California Gov. Gavin Newsom confirmed Wednesday that public schools will not reopen this academic year amid a coronavirus pandemic which saw a statewide spike in ICU patient numbers.
The announcement, which was made in an afternoon news briefing, reaffirmed a notion that state Superintendent Tony Thurmond had made Tuesday.
"It seems, I think, self-evident, that we should not prepare to bring our children back into the school setting," Newsom said.
Newsom and Thurmond emphasized that all schools would continue with online classes. To ensure that all students have access to online learning, Newsom announced that it reached an agreement with Google to install at least 100,000 WiFi access point hot spots across the state. Google will also give out thousands of free Google Chromebooks to students. The WiFi access will be available for free for a minimum of three months.
"The right thing to do for our children...is to make sure that we are preparing today to set our school system up where we are increasing class time, but increasing it at home, and fulfilling our obligation through distance learning and other mechanisms to make sure that we're educating our kids, but not doing so physically on the school sites," Newsom said.
Furthermore, California received a waiver from the federal governor to increase access to food distribution for students, such as grab-and-go meals, Newsom disclosed. Tens of thousands of students across the state depend on their schools for their breakfast and lunch.
This comes after the University of California Board of Regents approved suspending the use of SAT scores and letter grade requirements for incoming students.
"Quite frankly, none of us knows when it's safe for us to return to campus," Thurmond told reporters Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Newsom reported that there were currently 774 coronavirus patients in ICU beds statewide, a staggering 16 percent spike from the day before.
At least 8,155 people in California have tested positive for COVID-19.
The state is continuing with its efforts to secure 50,000 more hospital beds to meet what it has termed as phase one of the surge. About 40 percent of those will need to be ICU beds, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said Wednesday.
"If we continue to bring down the curve, bend it further down, we may be able to buy ourselves more time and ensure that we have the services -- both in ventilators, ICU beds and other equipment and supplies -- to care for all those people who need it," California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said.
However, Ghaly added that by the end of May, the state's models show that its phase two surge will require roughly 66,000 more beds.
"We know that we have planned our phase one surge capacity at 50,000 beds...Our modeling shows that we will need roughly 66,000 beds towards the end of May," Ghaly said.
That means the state needs to obtain thousands more ventilators for those ICU beds. California currently has only 4,252 ventilators available, with an initial phase one goal of 10,000.
"Ventilators are key," Ghaly said. "ICU beds without ventilators may not be worth as much as an ICU bed with a ventilator. So the governor's effort to bring as many ventilators to scale in California is a must. And if we look at 40 percent of roughly that 66,000 or even that 50,000 number, we are in need of roughly 20, 25, closer to 30,000 ICU beds and ventilators."
Newsom noted that over 34,000 people have signed up so far on Health Corps, the initiative through which medical students and retired healthcare workers can help meet the increase in coronavirus patients expected in the coming weeks.
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