Gov. Gavin Newsom announced, perhaps to the shock of millions of California parents, that he does not expect the state’s schools to return session before summer break arrives.
Meanwhile, he hinted that more drastic responses to the coronavirus outbreak may be on the table in the near future.
Newsom detailed steps taken by state officials following the passage of a $1.1 billion coronavirus response package by the California State Legislature on Monday.
Before taking questions, he admonished parents to prepare their children for a long furlough from school.
“I would plan and assume it is unlikely that many of these schools, few if any, will open before the summer break,” he said from the Office of Emergency Services on Tuesday.
“I don’t want to mislead you, to six-plus million kids in our system and their families, they need to make some plans at a time when a lot of plans are already being curtailed.”
Newsom, following the lead of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, has requested a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education to halt Federal standardized testing, in the event that California students do return to school prior to the conclusion of the school year.
Nearly 99 percent of the state’s school districts voluntarily shuttered in-person instruction due to the outbreak of coronavirus. Despite the mass closures, Newsom has not issued a mandate to close operations.
Reporters, who were able to ask the Governor questions via conference call in an effort to practice social distancing, engaged in a wide-range of inquiry over the spending plans for the $1.1 billion relief package.
During the news conference, Newsom announced the state would lease two hospitals – one in northern California, the other in southern – with funds from the emergency budget bill. He also announced the activation of the California National Guard to provide on-the-ground logistical assistance.
A query from CalMatters reporter Laurel Rosenhall piqued the interest of California residents following Newsom’s press conference online.
Asking about the National Guard’s activation and the state’s ever-increasing, yet incremental approach to responding to the outbreak, Rosenhall wondered why the state shied away from a full-bore response at the outset.
“We’re working with 58 counties, we’re working with 1,000 school districts, we’re working 470 plus cities,” Newsom said. “We have been very very aggressive in many other protocols. We encouraged the cities and counties with local conditions to go further – they did. Many other counties in real-time are adopting similar strategies to those Bay Area counties as we speak.”
Monday, Bay Area counties issued a shelter-in-place order to all residents as its cases of coronavirus lead the state.
“If we don’t feel they’re doing it quickly enough, we will encourage more.”
Rosenhall also asked whether Newsom anticipated having to utilize National Guard troops to enforce a potential statewide shelter-in-place order.
“We have asked the National Guard to work with us on logistics, mutual aid,” Newsom said. “It’s not just the National Guard, it’s CHP and others to begin to ‘regionalize’ strategy solutions and address what we do often in emergencies. We’re leaning in that direction. “
As for engaging a potential statewide quarantine, Newsom noted the vast ability to enact new restrictions to keep Californians in their homes to contain the disease.
“We have the ability in real-time – I don’t need to wait a week, a news cycle, I don’t need to wait a day – we have the ability in an hour or two, depending on the conditions, to move more aggressively,” he said.
“We have the ability to martial law and things like that can layer new requirements and authority. If we feel the necessity to do that, we can do that. I don’t want to get alarmist, but we are scaling all of our considerations.”
Refocusing his comments on the steady approach of his Tuesday update, Newsom emphasized that the state was transitioning into executing plans.
“Planning is no longer taking shape, it’s the application of these plans is really where we are in this pandemic planning process.”