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California Wants Retired, Inactive, Aspiring Health Care Workers To Help Meet COVID-19 Surge

Beth LaBerge/KQED
Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a press conference at the Bloom Energy on Mar. 28, 2020. Bloom Energy is a fuel cell generator company that has switched over to refurbishing ventilators as more patients experience respiratory issues due to COVID-19.

Gov. Gavin Newsom is asking retired health care professionals, plus those with inactive licenses and who are in training to help with an upcoming surge of COVID-19 patients across California. 

“We’re looking for thousands and thousands of individuals,” Newsom said at a press conference in Sacramento on Monday. “The next few weeks in California are going to be critical.” 

The governor encouraged retired or inactive doctors, nurses and other health care professionals to register as part of the newly created California Health Corps system.

He said coronavirus hospitalizations had doubled statewide to 1,432 over the past four days, while the number of intensive-care patients had nearly tripled to 597, up from 200 four days ago. 

Overall, the state had 5,763 COVID-19 cases as of Monday, Newsom said.

As part of the initiative, Newsom signed an executive order to waive health care staffing ratios to give the state more flexibility to address a surge in patients. The order also allows inactive health care professionals to come back to the workforce more quickly.

The governor said the added personnel would be used to help staff 50,000 new hospital beds, which California plans to create to address the surge in patients. He said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is considering make-shift hospital construction at sites including the former Sacramento Kings basketball arena in Sacramento, along with the Oakland Coliseum and Los Angeles Coliseum.

Newsom added that the Navy hospital ship Mercy, which was sent to Los Angeles last week, had received its first patients on Sunday. That ship is expected to care for non-COVID-19 patients to ease the strain on the state’s existing hospitals.

The governor encouraged the public to continue practicing physical distancing to slow the spread of the virus.

“There’s nothing more potent and powerful,” he said. 

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