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California Gets Surge ICU Staff, Rolls Out App To Notify Users Of Covid-19 Exposure

California Gov. Gavin Newsom gave a livestreamed update on the state's response to COVID-19 on Dec. 7, 2020.
Liam Moriarty
California Gov. Gavin Newsom gave a livestreamed update on the state's response to COVID-19 on Dec. 7, 2020.

With California health care systems straining under the worst surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, the state is bringing in additional workers to help staff surge beds.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday the state is working to contract with more than 800 medical workers to provide care in the state’s overwhelmed intensive care units and other health care settings. Most will be in place by next Monday, Newsom said.

While staffing is a “paramount” issue, finding “enough people that are not fatigued, that are not exhausted, that we have not asked too much from” has been a challenge, Newsom said.

More than 400 of the workers are being placed in ICU settings, including surge facilities being set up in Imperial County and Northern California, Newsom said. In Sacramento, the old Sleep Train Arena is being prepared to accept patients this week.

Around 300 nurses will be deployed to those alternate care sites, as well as nursing homes, state prisons and other hospitals. Others will fill other needs such as behavioral health, according to Newsom.

The California Hospital Association welcomed the news.

“Across the state, one of our biggest concerns is the availability of staffing, particularly qualified staff who can work in ICU and critical care settings,” spokeswoman Jan Emerson-Shea said. “We can find places to put mattresses and beds, but we need people to staff those.”

She added, “any resource the state is able to bring in to help address those shortages is welcome.”

Newsom said the state has also requested additional staffing from the federal government with an “emphasis” on ICU beds. “We’ll continue to push for more personnel, more medical response,” he added.

Last week the governor tied ICU capacity to new stay-at-home orders. Many businesses will have to shut down in areas where less than 15% of beds are available. Under that criteria, theSan Joaquin and Southern California regions implemented stay-at-home orders on Sunday. Several counties in the Bay Area have also preemptively imposed the measures.

Get Notified Of Exposure

The state is planning to roll outa new app to help notify people who have been exposed to the coronavirus, Newsom also announced Monday.

The app, called CA Notify, will be available for Apple and Android users as soon as Dec. 10. According to a news release, it does not track location, but instead uses Bluetooth technology to exchange codes with nearby phones. If a user tests positive they can put a verification code into the app, which will notify other users who were within six feet of the person for at least 15 minutes.

Newsom said the program uses secure codes that do not reveal a user’s location or identity. Users must opt-in to the voluntary program.

CA Notify was piloted at several UC campuses beginning in September. Other states have rolled out similar apps,with mixed success.

“This is only as good as peoples’ adaptation and utilization,” Newsom admitted. “I’m very, very sober about the adoption rates, and I don’t expect tens of millions of people” to sign up, though he urged people to.

The governor added his optimism that California-based companies Apple and Google, which helped develop the apps, would drive people to sign up.

Copyright 2020 CapRadio