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Governor announces new $2.7 billion COVID-19 emergency response package 

Gavin Newsom affordable housing

Official photo of California Governor Gavin Newsom.

Package to bolster testing capacity, accelerate vaccination and booster efforts, support frontline workers

– This week, Governor Newsom’s Administration unveiled a proposed $2.7 billion COVID-19 Emergency Response Package – including a $1.4 billion emergency appropriation request – to bolster testing capacity, accelerate vaccination and booster efforts, support frontline workers, strengthen the health care system and battle misinformation. The governor’s budget also calls for new legislation to implement supplemental paid sick leave policies given the current situation being driven by the Omicron variant to better protect our frontline workers.

“From day one, California has taken swift and direct action to battle COVID-19 with policies that have saved tens of thousands of lives, but there’s more work to be done,” said Governor Newsom. “Our proposed COVID-19 Emergency Response Package will support our testing capacity, accelerate vaccination and booster efforts, support frontline workers and health care systems and battle misinformation, with a focus on the hardest-hit communities.”

Governor Newsom’s overall package includes:

$1.2 billion to bolster testing

• Expand hours and capacity at testing sites throughout the state to help slow the spread.
• Distribute millions of COVID-19 antigen tests to local health departments, community clinics and county offices of education and schools. This is critical to the state’s operational readiness and continued efforts to combat COVID-19, and it includes a $1.4 billion emergency appropriation request to the Legislature for California’s immediate needs.
• Supporting the state’s testing facilities, including specimen collection and expanding capacity in order to meet demand.
• Supporting state departments in testing their staff and congregate populations

$583 million to expand vaccination efforts and ‘combat misinformation’

• Continue the “Vaccinate all 58” public education campaign to provide reliable information and build vaccine confidence while combating misinformation, all of which is in partnership with 250 ethnic media outlets.
• Continue a robust community outreach and direct appointment assistance campaign by conducting door-to-door canvassing, phone banking and texting with over 700 CBOs and community partners in partnership with philanthropy.
• In-home vaccination and testing programs to meet Californians where they’re at.
• Provide free transportation to vaccination appointments throughout the state to help get more Californians vaccinated and boosted.

$614 million to support frontline workers and healthcare systems

• Support and distribution of critical personnel resources for health care systems to help protect frontline workers, patient care and hospital surge capacity as well as additional staffing for vaccination sites.

$200 million to support state response operations

• Resources to enhance the state’s emergency response and public health capacities, including staffing and information technology at California Department of Public Health, Office of Emergency Services and Emergency Medical Services Authority.

$110 million to support vulnerable populations and bolster contact tracing efforts

• Increased public health and humanitarian efforts at the California-Mexico border to keep migrants safe, including vaccinations, testing and isolation and quarantine services.
• Expanded statewide contact tracing activities to help keep Californians safe and slow the spread.

Health care leaders responded to Governor Newsom’s proposed action to protect Californians and expand efforts to combat this pandemic:

“This Emergency Response Package to boost testing, vaccine distribution and support health care workers comes at a critical time as cases of the Omicron variant surge nationwide,” said California Medical Association (CMA) President Robert E. Wailes, M.D. “The California Medical Association appreciates Governor Newsom’s leadership as his administration continues to work to anticipate the state’s needs and implement strong public health measures that will save lives.”

“As the current Omicron surge demonstrates, no one knows for how long the COVID-19 pandemic will endure or the enormity of its impact on California for years to come,” said President & CEO of the California Hospital Association Carmela Coyle. “What we do know is that the demands on our state’s health care system have never been greater, and we need all the support we can get. The Governor’s request for this funding, including resources to shore up a depleted workforce, represents a vital step toward making sure the health care needs of every Californian are met as a crisis with no known end date continues to claim lives every day.”

“Governor Newsom’s announcement today to invest $2.7 billion in ongoing COVID-19 emergency response comes at a pivotal time in our fight against this deadly disease and the rapid spread of the Omicron variant,” said Executive Director of the County Health Executives Association of California Michelle Gibbons. “We commend the Governor for taking these decisive actions to help protect the health and well-being of local communities through the expansion of vaccines, testing, and booster shots and efforts to combat misinformation that has caused unnecessary deaths and illness. These actions will ultimately help save lives, which remains a top priority for local public health.”

California has invested an unprecedented $11.2 billion throughout the pandemic. The state has administered more than 66 million vaccinations and boosters and has maintained one of the lowest death rates among large states. In the face of Omicron, California has ramped up testing capacity at an unprecedented speed – deploying the National Guard, expanding hours and access to California’s testing sites, delivering 9.6 million tests to schools since early December with another 3.3 million tests out for delivery, and ensuring that 90-percent of Californians are within a 30-minute drive of testing sites.

Governor signs executive order to prevent price gouging on at-home COVID tests

This week the governor also signed an executive order establishing consumer protections against price gouging on at-home test kits.

Helping to improve access to these tests at a fair price, the order generally prohibits sellers from increasing prices on COVID-19 At-Home Test Kits by more than 10-percent. The order also gives additional tools to the California Department of Justice and Attorney General’s Office, district attorneys and other local law enforcement to take action against price gougers.

A copy of the Governor’s executive order today can be found here.

Governor Newsom this week announced the deployment of more than 200 Cal Guard members to expand capacity at 50 testing sites around the state. This effort is in addition to the existing 6,000 testing sites that have been set up across California, the recent demand-based expansion of hours at state-operated sites and the 9.6 million tests that the state has distributed to schools since early December.

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About the author: News Staff

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 info@pasoroblesdailynews.com.