Within weeks, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued the first statewide mandatory restrictions in the United States, ordering California’s nearly 40 million residents to stay home to help combat the outbreak.
He ordered California’s nearly 40 million residents to stay home to help combat the outbreak, but he didn’t stop there.
While many states scramble for desperately needed equipment and supplies, Newsom this week announced a deal for millions of masks for health care workers, and though the state is still battling the outbreak, it finds itself in a position to donate hundreds of ventilators to hospitals across the country.
By Friday, California had 11,889 cases compared to nearly 10 times that in New York, or 102,985 cases. The Golden State has 264 deaths to New York’s 2,935.
“When we write this history and look at the tens of thousands of lives in California that will have been spared, I think there will be lots of factors that went into it,” Wachter said.
“But I do believe the most important was that leaders of all types – whether they were in government or in businesses – took it seriously, believed that this was a real risk and did the right thing early.”
Here is what California did right in response to the contagion:
After announcing two weeks ago that the state had distributed 24.5 million N95 masks, Newsom on Tuesday night told “The Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC that California had struck a deal for more than 200 million protective masks per month.
About three-quarters will be N95s, the rest surgical, he told the show.
Saying “enough is enough” when it comes to states competing for vital equipment, he said, “We’re confident we can supply the needs of the state of California and potentially the needs of other Western states.”
Contracts inked in recent days – including with a consortium of nonprofits and a California manufacturer – “give me confidence in being able to say that,” the governor said.
California has also done well not only refurbishing ventilators but procuring new ones – most notably 1,225 from Tesla billionaire Elon Musk, who had promised only 1,000 of the devices. Bloom Energy also said last month it was repurposing a manufacturing plant to supply ventilators.
The state’s so ahead of the game on ventilators that it began sending 500 of its ventilators to hot spots in Illinois, New Jersey and New York on Tuesday. Based on the advice of federal emergency officials, ventilators will also be loaned to Washington D.C., Delaware, Maryland and likely Nevada, Newsom said.
Though California is still fighting its own Covid-19 battle, and things can change, “we’re confident that the number of ventilators that we currently have in possession are adequate to the task in the very short term,” the governor said, applauding residents for doing their part in slowing the virus’ spread.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy tweeted his appreciation Tuesday, saying his state is “beyond grateful” to Newsom, and “we will repay the favor when California needs it.”
Los Angelenos can apply for testing
All 10 million residents in Los Angeles County are now eligible to apply for a coronavirus test.
There are “no longer any limits” on who can apply to be tested, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Monday, explaining that the county is scrapping prerequisites such as being older than 65, underlying medical conditions and weakened immune systems.
It doesn’t mean officials have a test for everyone in the county – the most populous in the US – but the testing capacity is now greater than the number of cases they’ve been receiving under the previous guidelines.
Face coverings mandated in Los Angeles
Employees and customers of essential Los Angeles businesses remaining open during the stay-home order must wear face coverings, Garcetti said Tuesday.
Businesses can refuse service to customers who do not wear a face covering starting Friday morning, according to Garcetti’s order, which he said was designed “to take care of those who are taking care of us.”
The rule goes for grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants, hotels, taxis, ride-share companies and construction firms, all of which were ordered to provide face coverings for workers.
Businesses are also required to provide access to a clean restroom with soap and sanitizer, and to allow employees to wash their hands every 30 minutes.
Last week, Garcetti urged residents to wear nonmedical-grade face coverings when in public.
Easter park shutdown
Los Angeles will also close its parks for Easter. Families traditionally use the facilities for Easter egg hunts and other gatherings, Garcetti said, but it’s too risky this year.
“This is such a great tradition that many families have, but we can’t afford to have one cluster of just even a few people together. It could spread this disease to more people and kill them,” he said.
The parks will be closed Saturday evening and reopen Monday morning, the mayor said.
Park rangers and the Los Angeles Police Department will be patrol the park to enforce the closures.
Silicon Valley employees started working from home
In early March, health officials in northern California were recommending that companies allow employees to work work from home. Employers were urged to stagger starting and closing times. Companies were asked to suspend nonessential travel.
“So much of the businesses, particularly in northern California, are the tech businesses. And companies like Google and Apple and Salesforce and others told their employees to work from home as early as March 5,” Wachter said.
“There was a general sense here that this is serious stuff, that the experts are telling us we need to do this. And people listened.”
San Francisco Bay area issues shelter-in-place order
In one of the most draconian measures at the time, nearly seven million people across a wide swath of Northern California, including Silicon Valley, were ordered to shelter in place effective March 16.
Along with San Francisco, residents in San Mateo, Santa Clara, Marin, Alameda, and Contra Costa counties, as well as the city of Berkeley, were required to stay home, per orders from health officers in those jurisdictions.
Health services, grocery stores, gas stations, banks and food delivery services remained open. Mass transit stayed open but was to be used only for travel to and from essential services.
“That was no accident,” Dr. George Rutherford, professor of epidemiology at the University of California San Francisco, said of the timing of the order. “It was the day before St. Patrick’s Day which is a huge mixing event as you can imagine.”
San Francisco instituted a number of initiatives to help those out of work or otherwise hurt by the lockdown, including grants for small businesses.
In Santa Clara, it appears the early action yielded big dividends, as the time span in which cases have been doubling dropped from three days to two weeks, or maybe longer, county public health officer Dr. Sara Cody said Wednesday.
“When you act early, just as the curve is taking off, you can slow things down. That’s what we did,” she said. “Early action is also extraordinarily disruptive, both socially and economically. … If you wait and take action later, you get the same social and economic disruption – you get all those harms – but you don’t get as much benefit.”
Governor issues early statewide stay-at-home order
Under the statewide order issued March 19, Californians should not leave home except for essential things such as food, prescriptions, health care and commuting to jobs considered crucial.
“This is a moment where we need some straight talk,” Newsom told reporters at the time. “As individuals and as a community, we need to do more to meet this moment.”
Essential services such as groceries, pharmacies, gas stations, farmers markets, food banks, convenience stores and delivery restaurants remained open. As did banks, local government offices that provide services and law enforcement agencies.
California also benefited from strong and early public health awareness campaigns and a sprawling demography compared to more densely populated places such as New York City, said Dr. Robert David Siegel, a microbiology and immunology professor at Stanford University.
Wachter said California’s efforts have been bold and controversial but appear to be working.
“There were people that said, ‘Why are you doing this? You’re going to kill the economy,’” he said. “I think there’s just a general attitude – let’s trust the science, if this is what the science tells us, we need to take it very seriously.”
CNN’s Eliott C. McLaughlin and Cheri Mossburg contributed to this report.