State to open 86 new test sites, start scheduling surgeries again


SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gov. Gavin Newsom says California is improving its ability to test residents and track coronavirus cases as it continues a slow march toward reopening.

Last week, the governor laid out a “road map” for opening back up businesses and other elements of life in the state, and promised weekly updates. On Wednesday, he announced a mild adjustment to life under the state’s stay-at-home order, though he acknowledged anyone hoping to hear that life was going back to normal would be disappointed.

The state will begin the process of scheduling more “essential” surgeries again, such as tumor removal or heart valve operations, Newsom said. These scheduled surgeries were temporarily put on hold as hospitals braced to handle a surge of virus patients. Now medical centers are ready to begin cautiously working toward getting the operations done, the governor said.

Newsom also announced more progress on improving the state’s ability to give coronavirus tests to any residents who need one. That includes the opening of 86 new sites around California, especially targeting “testing deserts” where people lack resources.

The governor said California should be able to reach 25,000 tests each day by the end of April, with an ultimate goal of administering 60 to 80,000 tests daily.

The state is still working on its ability to track COVID-19 cases — including not just sick people, but also the people they may have come into close contact with — by training 10,000 workers.

Testing and tracking ability are among the six key factors laid out by the administration for beginning to ease restrictions on society. Officials say before any changes are made, the state has to ensure California can adequately:

  1. Monitor and protect communities through testing, contact tracing, isolating and treating people who are positive or exposed
  2. Prevent infection in people who are at risk for more severe virus symptoms
  3. Handle surges in hospitals and public health systems
  4. Develop new therapeutic treatments
  5. Introduce new ways to allow for greater social distancing in businesses, schools and child care facilities
  6. Determine if and when to reintroduce certain measures

Newsom repeatedly discusses the importance of making decisions “guided by science, not politics,” when facing pressure to provide a firm deadline or hasten the pace at which the state reopens.

“There’s no date. If there’s a date, then we’re denying the facts on the ground,” Newsom said Wednesday. “We need to be adaptive.”

The governor has emphasized that lifting restrictions will not work like a “light switch” but instead like a “dimmer,” with measures being lifted and potentially put back in place depending on how public health data reacts.

Newsom has entered a pact with the other states on the West Coast to coordinate their re-entry plans.

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