Coronavirus: California leases 2 hospitals in preparation for potential virus surge

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Melissa Daniels and Rebecca Plevin, Palm Springs Desert Sun

California Gov. Gavin Newsom gives an update on the state's response to the coronavirus at the Governor's Office of Emergency Services in Rancho Cordova, Calif., on Tuesday, March 17.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom gives an update on the state’s response to the coronavirus at the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services in Rancho Cordova, Calif., on Tuesday, March 17. (Photo: Rich Pedroncelli, AP)

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Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday announced $42 million in emergency funding will be spent to help increase the amount of space and services available to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. And California authorities have asked the federal government for far more supplies, including 10,000 ventilators and 30 million masks.

Newsom, during a news conference late Saturday afternoon, also provided an update on the state’s efforts to expand its bed capacity in preparation for a potential surge in patients sickened by the virus.

California’s 416 hospitals have a bed capacity of about 78,000, and projections indicate the state could need an additional 19,500 beds during the coronavirus pandemic, Newsom said. The hospitals have a surge capacity of more than 10,000, he said, so the state is in the process of trying to procure an additional 10,000 beds.

The state is spending $30 million to lease two hospitals to create an increased number of beds — including St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles, and Seton Medical Center in the Bay Area community of Daly City.

Another $8.6 million will be spent on ventilators and IV pumps, plus $2 million to contract with American Medical Response for patient transport services, and $1.4 million to expand the state’s public health lab in Richmond.

The federal government is providing the state with eight field medical units, which will provide about 2,000 beds, Newsom said during the news conference.

“They’re finally being delivered,” he said of the field hospitals. “They’re on their way.”Get the Daily Briefing newsletter in your inbox.

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Additionally, he said, the state is beginning negotiations for 1,000 beds in skilled nursing facilities and has so far secured 2,400 hotel rooms for people experiencing homelessness.

Stressing the importance of housing the state’s 108,000 homeless, who are at high-risk of contracting the virus, he said: “We have made it clear that we are prioritizing the most vulnerable Californians… The most vulnerable Californians include the homeless.”

More supplies coming

The state has about 21 million masks in reserves, Newsom said during the news conference. The state distributed about 10 million masks last week and an additional million and half in the last few days, he said.

“We’ve got millions more,” he said during the news conference. “We’re going to get them out into our system as quickly as possible.”

Additionally, the state is receiving supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile, a federal repository for medical supplies and drugs to be used in a public health crisis. This week the state began receiving: 

  • 358,381 N95 masks
  • 853,730 surgical masks
  • 162,565 face shields
  • 132,544 surgical gowns
  • 678 coveralls
  • 471,941 gloves

But the state has also put in a request for far more supplies, including 20 million N95 masks, 10,000 ventilators and 2 million swabs and 200,000 RNA extraction kits used for testing. The request also includes:

  • 10 million surgical masks
  • 600,000 surgical gowns
  • 600,000 face shields
  • 600,000 gloves
  • 300,000 goggles
  • 100,000 coveralls 

“California is mobilizing every part of government to support our health care delivery system, its workers, and those among us who are most vulnerable to COVID-19,” Newsom said in a news release.

Newsom said last week that the state may need to take over private assets to help care for COVID-19 patients.

The St.Vincent facility in the Westlake neighborhood of Los Angeles has been closed since January, but will be prepped to re-open so it can provide care to up to 366 patients who are diagnosed with COVID-19. Seton Medical Center will get an increased capacity for 120 COVID-19 patients, according to the governor’s office.

Previously, the state began to reopen Community Hospital in Long Beach in order to accept up to 158 patients from other hospitals. It was set to begin accepting patients on Saturday.

Melissa Daniels covers business in the Coachella Valley. Do you have any stories to share about how the coronavirus is affecting your job or business?  Have a question about available resources? Reach out at (760)-567-8458,, or on Twitter @melissamdaniels.

The Desert Sun’s Rebecca Plevin contributed to this report.