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COVID-19: Governor Newsom takes emergency actions, issues new stats 

Gavin Newsom affordable housing

Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom

Governor Newsom authorizes $150 million in funding to protect homeless COVID-19

– Governor Gavin Newsom Wednesday took a series of significant, additional actions to protect Californians experiencing homelessness from COVID-19. The State of California is providing emergency aid to local governments and implementing emergency protective measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 among this particularly vulnerable population, many of whom have no option to self-quarantine or isolate.

“People experiencing homelessness are among the most vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19,” said Governor Newsom. “California is deploying massive resources to get these vulnerable residents safely into shelter, removing regulatory barriers and securing trailers and hotels to provide immediate housing options for those most at risk. Helping these residents is critical to protecting public health, flattening the curve and slowing the spread of COVID-19.”

Actions include:

  • Emergency Funding: Governor Newsom directed the first allocation of the $500 million in emergency funding recently authorized by the Legislature for COVID-19 related activities – $150 million for local emergency homelessness actions. To deploy this first funding allocation, the state will provide: $100 million directly to local governments, for shelter support and emergency housing to address COVID-19 among the homeless population, and $50 million to purchase travel trailers and lease rooms in hotels, motels, and other facilities in partnership with counties and cities to provide immediate isolation placements throughout the state for homeless individuals.
  • Executive Order for Local Flexibility: Governor Newsom signed an executive order providing flexibility to local governments to spend their emergency homelessness funding on immediate solutions tailored to combatting COVID-19 and its impacts on the homeless population. The Governor also waived certain regulatory barriers for any shelters or facilities built with this emergency funding.
  • Public Health Guidance for Homeless Shelters: The California Health & Human Services Agency issued official public health guidance to homeless service providers statewide about social distancing measures in shelters, access to hygiene supplies, health screening protocols, and isolation protocols for people with COVID-19 or those demonstrating symptoms. That guidance is available here.
  • Purchasing Trailers: The state is immediately procuring 1,309 travel trailers from FEMA and private vendors to provide quarantine capacity – moving people out of shelters and into isolation placements, focused on people with COVID-19 or those demonstrating symptoms. The purposes of this emergency protective measure is to protect healthy people in those facilities and create capacity in the existing shelter network. These trailers will be deployed to California’s largest population centers.
  • Leasing Hotels & Motels, in Partnership with Counties: The state provided California’s counties with tailored lists of hotels and motels that are potentially available to lease for the next several months. The state is also offering to contact hotels and negotiate leases, if a county requests that assistance. In total, the state has identified over 950 hotels across 53 counties that are potentially eligible for participation in the state’s leasing program. The state and counties have already begun outreach to these hotels and motels now, and when we identify a willing partner, we initiate lease negotiations with the owner.
  • First Hotel Leases: Yesterday, the state executed hotel leases for the first two properties and is transferring control to Alameda County. This includes a total of 393 rooms in Oakland. These rooms will be put to use as emergency protective measures by the local governments as isolation capacity for homeless individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 or are symptomatic, or otherwise at significant risk.

Unsheltered people living on the streets and those living in large shelter settings are particularly susceptible to COVID-19. The state has previously issued guidance that people 65 years of age and older and those with underlying medical conditions are particularly susceptible to having serious health impacts as a result of the virus, including higher mortality rates.

On Monday, the Governor issued an executive order that authorizes local governments to halt evictions for renters and homeowners, slows foreclosures, and protects against utility shutoffs for Californians affected by COVID-19. This order was in part a preventative measure to ensure that low-income Californians do not lose a safe roof over their head as a result of an eviction related to a loss of income or sickness due to COVID-19. The Governor hopes to see other local efforts to protect renters, low-income homeowners, and small businesses, following the leadership of local jurisdictions such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, and San Jose, which have already implemented or are working towards local measures.

COVID-19 in California by the Numbers

As of 6 p.m., March 17, 2020

There are a total of 598 positive cases and 13 deaths in California, including one non-California resident. This total does not include passengers from the Grand Princess cruise ship currently docked in Oakland.

  • 598 – Total cases
  • 24 – Cases of positive tests related to federal repatriation flights
  • 574 – Cases not related to repatriation flights
  • 91 – Travel related
  • 88 – Person-to-person acquired
  • 142 – Community-acquired
  • 253 – Under investigation

Ages of all confirmed positive cases:

  • Age 0-17: 13 cases
  • Age 18-64: 392 cases
  • Age 65+: 188 cases
  • Unknown: 5 cases

Approximately 11,900 people are self-monitoring, across 49 local health jurisdictions, after returning to the U.S. from travel.

Governor issues order to suspend standardized testing for students

– To reduce the strain on students, families and educators during the COVID-19 outbreak, Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order to waive, pending federal approval, this year’s statewide testing for California’s more than 6 million students in K-12 schools.

“This time is stressful enough for students, families and educators without the additional burden of annual testing,” said Governor Newsom. “This is an unprecedented time, and our main focus is on supporting the mental and socioemotional health of students, while continuing to provide educational opportunities such as distance learning.”

“I appreciate the Governor’s leadership here and recognizing that under the current circumstances, the last thing our students need is to be confronted with a test,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. “Our districts need some relief and this decision is in the best interest of our students and our state.”

“As schools are struggling to maintain instruction, feed students, and provide child care, they need to focus first and foremost on these pressing responsibilities,” said California State Board of Education President Linda Darling-Hammond. “The safety and well-being of children and staff has to be our No. 1 concern. We do not want concerns about testing to distract them from their critical work at this time of national emergency.”

The Governor’s full executive order can be found here.

State launches new comprehensive website and public announcements to boost COVID-19 awareness

New, one-stop state website:

–California Governor Gavin Newsom Wednesday announced the launch of a new Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) public awareness campaign to provide useful information to Californians and inform them of actions they can take to further prevent the spread of the virus. The campaign is anchored by a new, consumer-friendly website,, that highlights critical steps people can take to stay healthy and resources available to Californians impacted by the outbreak, including paid sick leave and unemployment assistance.

The campaign also includes public service announcements from Dr. Sonia Angell, California Department of Public Health Director and State Health Officer, and California Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris. These announcements will be distributed on various state websites, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Facebook and Instagram have provided the state with $1 million in advertising credits to help promote the campaign.

“The state is mobilizing at every level to proactively and aggressively protect the health and well-being of Californians, but we cannot fight this outbreak alone,” said Governor Gavin Newsom. “We need the participation and support of every Californian, and that’s why we’re providing recent, relevant and reliable information. Californians need to know how to stay healthy and where they can get help. These actions are critical, and there is no doubt our collective efforts will save lives.”

Click here to see California Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris’ PSA directed at high-risk Californians.

Click here to see California Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris’ PSA regarding general health.

The one-stop website reminds Californians that their actions can save lives. The website’s toolkit includes volunteer opportunities and public service announcements, social media messages, and additional videos that can be shared to help get the word out. The website also serves as the central location for up-to-date and simple guidance.

Click here to see California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Sonia Angell’s PSA directed at high-risk Californians.

Click here to see California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Sonia Angell’s PSA regarding economic resources.

Insurance Commissioner Lara Calls for 60-Day insurance premium grace period

– Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara on Wednesday issued a Notice requesting that all insurance companies provide their policyholders with at least a 60-day grace period to pay insurance premiums. The Commissioner made the request to ensure policies are not cancelled for nonpayment of premium due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency.

The Notice follows Governor Gavin Newsom’s State of Emergency declaration to make additional resources available, formalize emergency actions already underway across multiple state agencies and departments, and help the state prepare and mitigate against the broader spread of COVID-19. The Commissioner’s Notice is directed to all admitted and non-admitted insurance companies that provide any insurance coverage in California including, life, health, auto, property, casualty, and other types of insurance.

“Now is the time to come together to help consumers weather this unprecedented period of uncertainty, and that includes helping policyholders maintain their insurance coverage if they are unable to pay their premiums,” said Commissioner Lara. “We must do everything we can to ensure that consumers and their families maintain insurance coverage protection during this public health pandemic.”

Commissioner Lara is also requesting that all insurance agents, brokers, and other licensees who accept premium payments on behalf of insurers take steps to ensure that customers have the ability to make prompt insurance payments, if and where possible. This includes alternate methods of payment, such as online payments, to eliminate the need for in-person payment methods in order to protect the health and safety of both workers and customers.

In addition, in a separate Notice, the Commissioner requested the assistance of all automobile insurers, producers, and other licensees transacting automobile insurance in California. The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) recently asked California law enforcement to exercise discretion for 60 days in their enforcement of driver license and vehicle registration expirations beginning March 16, 2020, in order to have at-risk populations, including seniors and those with underlying conditions, avoid required visits to DMV field offices.

To achieve this important objective, Commissioner Lara called on auto insurers to refrain from using the expiration of policyholders’ drivers licenses or vehicle registrations for 60 days, from March 16, 2020, for any of the following reasons:

To affect a driver’s ability to secure and maintain auto insurance coverage;
To affect a driver’s eligibility for a Good Driver discount;
To determine eligibility for a California Low Cost Automobile policy;
To impact the rates charged to any driver.

“The evolving COVID-19 pandemic continues to test all segments of our communities, including motorists,” said Commissioner Lara. “While we address this evolving crisis, Californians should not have to worry about driving with an expired license or losing their insurance coverage and driver discounts during this extraordinarily challenging time.”

This second Notice regarding driver license and vehicle registration expirations will be reevaluated at the end of the 60-day period.

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The news staff of the Paso Robles Daily News wrote or edited this story from local contributors and press releases. The news staff can be reached at