Coronavirus: As Cases in California Climb, Newsom Addresses Testing Concerns

In a wide-ranging press conference, Gov. Gavin Newsom said that 157 people in California have now tested positive for the new coronavirus.

The governor also detailed the latest steps California is taking to ramp up testing, implement social distancing guidance, and prepare for school closures, while processing passengers from the Grand Princess cruise 21 of whom are confirmed to have COVID-19.

'They Owe Their Fanbase an Answer...'

Newsom also took a shot at major sports organizations for continuing to pack stadiums full of fans during the outbreak.

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“I found it quite curious that the four major organizations — NHL, soccer, Major League Baseball, and the NBA — put out guidelines to protect their athletes but not their fans,” he said. “They owe their fanbase an answer as to why it's more important to keep reporters away from players in their locker rooms than keeping fans in highly contagious parts of the country together.”

The NHL's San Jose Sharks said Monday night that the team would comply with Santa Clara County's new prohibition on events of 1,000 or more people, but that is a ban enforceable by law. The Golden State Warriors decided to go ahead with their game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Chase Center in San Francisco on Saturday, despite the San Francisco Department of Public Health's recommendation that sporting events and other large gatherings be canceled.

New York announced Tuesday that it was sending the National Guard into a suburb to help fight what could be the largest cluster of coronavirus cases in the U.S.  In answer to a reporter's question as to whether Newsom was thinking of doing the same in Santa Clara County, which has the most confirmed cases in the state, he responded, "We are not there yet.”

Newsom applauded the county for issuing an order prohibiting mass gatherings of 1,000 or more people. He emphasized that the spread of the virus in that part of the South Bay is acute.

He didn’t recommend that other communities take similar measures, which are the strongest in the state. But he said some would surely do so eventually.

“I think it is inevitable, you will hear more from other counties doing the same,” he said.

Newsom also addressed a criticism from medical professionals that the state hasn’t yet tested enough people for COVID-19. Experts say that without rigorous testing,  they cannot discern everywhere that the virus is spreading.

Newsom said the state has evaluated 1,075 people and will be expanding its testing regime over the course of the next two weeks. “Testing is top of mind in California,” he said, while acknowledging California currently has a backlog of 180 to 200 tests.

There are 18 public labs currently processing new-coronavirus tests, with another one coming online soon, he said.

Quest Diagnostics, a national testing chain, can now test for the virus at a lab in San Juan Capistrano, Newsom said. The lab conducted about 100 tests yesterday and will be able to process 1,200 once it is fully operational.

Quest is scaling up two other testing locations, and Newsom said the company will be able to process between 5,000 and 5,500 tests a day by March 24.

The governor also gave an update on the the Grand Princess cruise ship, which docked in Oakland Monday. Health officials continued to process passengers from the ship. So far, officials have transported 269 passengers off the boat; 171 were sent on buses to Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, Newsom said. .

Newsom said those individuals most in need of medical attention are being processed first, followed by Californians, non-Californians and finally the ship's crew.

Jon Brooks contributed to this post.