On late Wednesday, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in California in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.
Previously, Newsom had only given ‘common sense’ advice regarding the outbreak and said that 8,400 people were being monitored. But during Wednesday’s press conference Newsom ramped up the state’s response due to 53 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the state, 1 death from the coronavirus, and an additional 1,000 people now being monitored.
“The State of California is deploying every level of government to help identify cases and slow the spread of this coronavirus,” said Newsom in a proclamation. “This emergency proclamation will help the state further prepare our communities and our health care system in the event it spreads more broadly.”
The state’s first death was likely a factor in moving up such an announcement. The person’s exposure, most likely occurring during a mid-February Princess cruise ship trip from San Francisco to Mexico and back, had worsened Tuesday. Despite being placed in isolation at a Roseville hospital, they died Wednesday. As part of the extraordinary precautions, fifteen people from the hospital and local emergency services were also placed in quarantine in case of any exposure. The ship is also currently undergoing tests, as it has been linked to other coronavirus cases.
Despite the precautions, Newsom’s Wednesday announcement has brought forth many question from the California public about the coronavirus and the government’s response. A state of emergency following only one death has especially baffled many. While many critics have pointed to getting federal dollars to help battle the coronavirus, Newsom denied issuing the state of emergency to get such federal funds on Wednesday.
“This is not about money, it’s about resourcefulness,” explained Newsom. “Money is not the issue.”
The Globe reached out to health officials to get an insight into California’s reasoning over issuing a state of emergency.
“It’s about mobilization,” said Dr. Ryan Feldman, who has seen public health scares in California for decades. “They will get money out of it most likely, but the big part of making it a state of emergency is getting enough supplies together and warnings out. And it can help preempt some local regulations. Some red tape is gone, but there is also more communication between places.”
“The big thing is that the responses to any new case will be much quicker now, and that’s by and large why Newsom did this. Deaths don’t look good, they make it look like you’re not on the ball on containing the disease. With A/H1N1 in 2009, also known as swine flu, Arnold Schwarzenegger would get on our case a lot, especially early on. A huge public health panic is never good, and Newsom knows this.”
“If anything I’d say it’s precaution, but that precaution is over many things. Public health and safety of course, but there’s an appearance factor in there too. There always is.”
53 cases of coronavirus have currently been reported in California, with a total of 206 being reported in the US.