Mar 19, 2020 - Health

Gavin Newsom: Hospitals are asking L.A. seamstresses to make masks

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a news conference at the California Department of Public Health on February 27, 2020 in Sacramento, California.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a news conference at the California Department of Public Health in Sacramento, California, in February. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said during a Facebook live address Wednesday evening hospitals fighting the novel coronavirus are "asking seamstresses in the Los Angeles garment district" to make masks.

Why it matters: Newsom's comments underscore concerns raised by experts and lawmakers that medical shortages could cripple the U.S. response to the virus.

  • Per Newsom: "We clearly have to meet this moment where we're not asking seamstresses in a garment district to make masks."

Details: Newsom made the comments while stating that he's "very pleased that the federal administration is now utilizing FEMA in a much more comprehensive manor."

  • He said California officials had asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency for equipment related to testing for COVID-19, including ventilators to more basic needs "like glasses, masks and gowns for frontline employees and medical professionals."
  • Newsom said another concern was price-gouging, with the San Diego district attorney finding masks that were on the market a week ago for three cents selling for 83 cents.

By the numbers: Newsom said 12,600 people had been tested in California so far and that 598 others had tested positive for the virus in California as of Tuesday night — a 21% increase over the previous day.

  • The results of 3,215 tests in the state are pending. But Newsom said the capacity to test was increasing and Californian officials had told the federal government that they needed to procure more swabs "so we can do specimen samples, not just the diagnostics."

Of note: Newsom issued an executive order earlier Wednesday to suspend standardized testing for more than 6 million students in K-12 schools this year, pending federal approval. Schools across the state closed in response to the virus.

  • Newsom also signed an executive order to authorize $150 million in funding to go toward protecting homeless Californians from COVID-19.

The big picture: President Trump signed into law an emergency coronavirus relief package on Wednesday evening that aims to provide free testing for COVID-19 to Americans.

  • The package also contains measures for two weeks of paid sick and family leave; increased federal funds for Medicaid and food security programs, including food stamps; and increased unemployment insurance benefits.
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