Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order on Thursday night that allows the state to commandeer any hotel or medical facility in California and use it to treat those that have the COVID-19 coronavirus.
The state Health and Human Services Agency and the Office of Emergency Services have been put in charge of needed building and facility commandeering if the need arises. Officials will also be looking into unused facilities and state parks for temporary treatment centers.
The measure is designed to prepare California in case the virus spreads more rapidly and is currently in effect for one hotel in San Carlos, which has been assigned passengers from the Grand Princes cruise ship.
“This is where we need to go next and make sure we fully implement these protocols to slowdown the spread and get through a peak and get through the next few months, so we don’t overwhelm our health care delivery system,” said Governor Newsom explaining his executive order.
Newsom also added that his order will temporarily allow government officials to hold closed, teleconference meetings, despite open meeting laws, and that testing will be greatly increasing in California in the coming days.
Newsom’s order came only a few hours after his press conference where he announced that all meetings in the state with 250 or more people would be banned for the rest of the month. The extreme measure also follows the decision of numerous sport and entertainment entities announcing halts, delays, or full closures of events in March and April.
“California, like a lot of the country, just stopped many things dead in its tracks,” noted former California health official Jacob Brandt. “We’re not nearly at a large-scale outbreak, yet we’re treating this like the end of the world.”
“I helped prep hospitals for the SARS, Swine Flu, and other outbreaks. They were as bad in some cases, yet we got over that without having a huge panic or trying to make Motel 6’s into Cedars-Sinai.”
“His request isn’t unreasonable in a five alarm emergency. But right now when we should be taking precautions he’s treating it like doomsday is here by having the state being allowed to take over hotels. And the statistics simply don’t back up the need for it.”
“We were always told that the simple precautions, like washing hands and not touching others, could do more than anything the government would issue short of a cure. But now we’re way past that, and it only seems to be panicking people.”
According to the CDC, as of March 12 California has had 198 cases of COVID-19 coronavirus, with only 4 deaths being reported.