SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California will provide for hotel and airfare accommodations needed by health care workers battling the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Gavin Newsom said in his daily media briefing Thursday.
“We need to do more” for health care workers and their families, Newsom said. “We need to be there for them.”
Noting that many medical professionals and other caregivers have been forced to stay away from their families out of fear of infecting them, often in hotel rooms or other accommodations that they are paying for out of pocket, Newsom said the state will streamline a system for workers to get reimbursed for temporary housing.
By visiting a new website, caltravelstore.com, workers will find a list of more than 150 hotels that are participating. Lower-income workers will get vouchers for 100% reimbursement of their stay, while others will get “steep discounts,” the governor explained.
The rooms can also be used by essential workers who need to isolate before they are allowed to return to the job, Newsom said.
Some federal dollars from FEMA will go toward paying for the vouchers, along with state funds and a $25 million contribution from Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, according to the governor.
Medical professionals who now need to travel to work in other communities — including the more than 85,000 people who have stepped up to take on new roles through the state’s Health Corps program — will also get help.
United, Southwest, Alaska and Delta airlines have all agreed to provide vouchers for free or discounted travel to get workers where they need to go, Newsom said. Information about airfare can also be found on the Cal Travel Store website.
Updated stats — and a flicker of hope
Newsom updated the state’s count of virus cases during his briefing. While independent counts typically outpace the official statistics because they gather data differently, the state has officially confirmed 18,309 COVID-19 cases.
Newsom said 2,825 people are in the hospital for virus care and 1,132 are in intensive care. The state has recorded 492 deaths because of coronavirus, including 50 people over the last 24 hours.
A silver lining: Newsom noted that for the first time in weeks, the number of people in ICU actually decreased by 1.9%. The governor was quick to downplay the significance of that statistic, calling it “encouraging” and a sign of the “incredible work all of you are doing” with social distancing. However, Newsom continued, “one data point” is not a trend.