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'We Can't Just Sit On Assets When We Can Save Lives': Gov. Newsom Defends Loaning Ventilators To National Stockpile

(CNN) -- California Gov. Gavin Newsom reassured residents Thursday the state has enough ventilators to meet its projected needs, after some questioned his decision to lend 500 machines to other states in crisis.

"We think it was the right thing to do but I also want you to know it was the responsible thing to do ... to save lives," Newsom said.

He said the state's early aggressive measures to help slow the virus, earned California more time to prepare for a surge. He has said he expects the peak of coronavirus patients to be in May.

"When those ventilators are used to save lives in those other states, we have the firm commitment from those states to send them back to the state of California," he said Thursday.

"But we can't just sit on assets when we can save lives and help our fellow Americans."

The state's hospital system currently holds about 11,747 ventilators and is using nearly 32% of them according to the governor. In addition, the state also has more ventilators in storage, he said.

But Newsom added that the numbers may not reflect "the reality in each and every county in the state of California."

Health officials check in with each country regularly, the governor said, to make sure they have what they need.

Los Angeles sees smallest increase

The governor said California was able to respond to other states' crises because its own cases were climbing at a slower rate than elsewhere. As of Friday morning, California has 20,169 cases of coronavirus with 547 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

On Thursday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti reported a 6% increase in cases -- the smallest increase since the county started tracking statistics

There were 425 new confirmed coronavirus cases in Los Angeles County, Garcetti announced, bringing the total to 7,955 cases.

"It's good news and the fourth day in a row of single digit increases," Garcetti said. "Our work is producing a slower rate, but we still have some of the toughest days ahead of us in the city."

Garcetti also announced 25 new deaths were reported in the county Thursday, a 13% increase since Wednesday and the third highest number the county has seen to date.

"Our numbers of deaths are still doubling every four days, and our hearts go out to those families who have lost," Garcetti added. "Each one who can never fill that hole, but we will remember them, and we will do everything to try to ensure that there are fewer numbers in the days ahead."

Cases spike among health care workers

Throughout the state, now at least 1,803 health care workers have also tested positive for the virus, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) said Thursday.

The number is nearly seven times more than the 269 cases among health care workers the department reported on Monday. The surge is due to a change in how officials are counting cases in health care workers, the department said.

"The California Department of Public Health had previously only reported health care worker infections among workers who had a confirmed case that was acquired while on the job," it said.

"Since COVID-19 is moving rapidly within the community, health care workers now appear just as likely, if not more so, to become infected by COVID-19 outside the workplace. As such, CDPH is now reporting the number of health care workers overall who are affected, regardless of where they were exposed."

The California Department of Public Health says their new counting method for health care workers now includes both occupational and non-occupational exposures.

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