Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday he is deploying multi-agency “strike teams” into Fresno and other Central Valley counties to help local officials get COVID-19 infections under control.
Newsom made the announcement in a live briefing held at an agricultural processing plant in Stockton. He also said the state is allocating $52 million in new funding to Central Valley counties to help with their coronavirus response efforts.
Counties in the Central Valley are experiencing higher rates of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations than the state as a whole, Newsom said. While California’s 14-day positivity rate from testing stands at 7.5%, the rate in Fresno County as of Monday is 10.7% and 17.7% in Tulare County, he said.
“So you get a sense of the challenge we have in the eight counties making up the Central Valley, disproportionately being impacted currently by community spread,” Newsom said, “and by spread happening disproportionately with essential workers, disproportionately in the Latino community, disproportionately impacting congregate settings — continuing to be diligent around skilled nursing facilities, correctional facilities and the like.”
Assemblyman Arambula Praises Governor’s Moves
Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno), who has recently pressed Fresno County officials to accelerate their local COVID response, praised the governor’s actions in a statement on Monday.
“I am deeply grateful for Gov. Newsom’s announcements today regarding the state’s re-focused efforts to better protect the essential workers – especially Latino workers — who are disproportionately and severely affected by COVID-19, including in Fresno County,” Arambula said.
“I also appreciate his urgency in addressing the critical condition of our Valley hospitals, which are at or reaching capacity. We depend on all these workers, from our fields to our health care facilities, to keep our economy going and to protect us from this pandemic.”
State Teams Will Build on Local Efforts
Newsom said the Regional Unified Response Teams deployed by the state will offer additional support and expertise to local officials. They include staff from California’s Office of Emergency Services, Department of Occupational Health and Safety, and Department of Social Services, among others.
“Three teams, representing three different regions in the Central Valley will be deployed along the same lines we deployed those teams in Imperial County,” Newsom said.
The effort in Imperial County that has now been in place for several months, Newsom said, led to reductions in the rate of COVID transmission and spread in that community.
Additional Dollars Coming from Federal Grant
Newsom said the $52 million in new funding for Central Valley counties represents a portion of a $499 million federal grant to the state from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
He did not specify how the funds would be allocated to individual counties, but said they are intended to “improve our isolation protocols, our quarantine protocols, our testing protocols, and to enhance our health care workers by providing more support as well as more personnel.”
“These dollars, we think, are timely,” Newsom said. “These dollars certainly are critical and important and they will build off local infrastructure that’s already in place.”
State Sen. Andreas Borgeas (R-Fresno) said the funding will help Fresno and other Valley counties move more quickly toward normalcy.
“Additional funding for contact tracing, testing, and healthcare personnel can help mitigate the spread of the virus so we can safely get our businesses back open and children back in school,” Borgeas said in a statement.
Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno) also weighed in on the additional funding.
‘I applaud Governor Newsom’s continued focus on the Central Valley and our increasing need for resources to help fight this pandemic,” Costa said in a news release. “Our hospitals are overwhelmed and the transmission rate, particularly among our low-income neighborhoods, is great cause for concern. We should do everything possible to protect the health and safety of the citizens of our valley. Help cannot wait! If we are serious about getting back to normal, people need to take this disease seriously and do everything they can to slow its spread.”