By Sharon Bernstein
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) – Nearly 200 federal healthcare workers have been deployed to California’s Central Valley agricultural breadbasket, where hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases as new infection rates soar, Governor Gavin Newsom said on Monday.
The arrival over the past several days of Department of Defense personnel will help hospitals in the stricken region, where some hospitals and intensive care units are two-thirds full of COVID-19 patients. That has left little room for people who are ill from other conditions and is putting immense pressure on doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers trained in providing care to the sickest patients.
To combat the virus’ spread, the state is committing $52 million to the eight counties that make up the San Joaquin Valley, Newsom told a news conference in Stockton, near the state capital of Sacramento.
The state is also dispatching strike teams of health care workers, employee safety specialists and business regulators to the San Joaquin Valley to educate and persuade residents and employers to adopt public health practices such as social distancing and wearing masks.
As many as 18% of those tested are showing to be infected with the coronavirus, more than twice the level as the state as a whole, Newsom said. The spread is being driven by a number of factors, including community and family gatherings, work in close quarters in agricultural businesses, nursing homes and prisons, he said.
California is one of several U.S. states that has become a hotspot for a second wave of coronavirus cases. An average of 109 Californians have died daily over the past two weeks, Newsom said, and nearly 8% of those tested for the coronavirus are confirmed to have contracted it, he said.
The state has rolled back efforts to re-open its economy, closing bars, banning indoor restaurant dining and postponing the resumption of in-person school instruction in 37 counties that are home to 93% of Californians.
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Sandra Maler and Leslie Adler)