California takes steps to protect those most vulnerable to COVID-19

March 16, 2020
Area(s) of Interest: Public Health 

In an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, Governor Gavin Newsom announced Sunday that California is taking additional measures to protect those most at risk of serious, life-threatening complications from COVID-19. The measures include urging those most vulnerable to COVID-19 to socially isolate at home, such as people age 65 and older and those with underlying medical conditions that make them more susceptible to serious illness from the coronavirus.

Recognizing the critical role physicians and other health care workers will play as we meet the expected surge, the governor’s office later clarified that the isolation order does not apply to health care workers over aged 65. California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly, M.D., says health care workers who are 65 or older should continue performing their duties but self-isolate when they are off duty. 

Gov. Newsom said the state is working to add hospital beds and expand our state’s capacity to treat patients. Last week, the governor issued an executive order that would allow the state to take over hotels and other facilities that may be used to treat patients. Gov. Newsom said the state was close to announcing a deal that would add more than 700 beds by the end of the week.

Gov. Newsom also said the state is also taking other steps to ramp up support to protect Californians most vulnerable to COVID-19, including:

  • Limiting visitors at assisted living facilities to only patients in end-of-life situations
  • Providing safe, wrap around services to those vulnerable residents who are isolating at home, including ramping up existing meal delivery and home visiting services 
  • Continue working to strengthen our hospitals, clinics, health care delivery system, first responders and health care workforce
  • Working aggressively to get homeless Californians into safe shelters and housing

Gov. Newsom emphasized that because not all people are equally vulnerable, it is important that we practice social distancing. Therefore, California is urging the following aggressive social distancing steps:

  • Bars, night clubs, and brewery and winery tasting rooms should close.
  • Restaurants should focus on food delivery and takeout while maximizing social distancing for those who are inside their restaurant by reducing occupancy by half.

Gov. Newsom also said it is important that essential societal functions continue. People who can continue to work safely and remain productive – whether that is remotely or at their regular workplace – should do so. This will ensure those who are needed to protect our most vulnerable residents can still go to work, for example:

  • hospital and health care workers
  • grocers and pharmacists 
  • social service providers 
  • essential government workers

The California Medical Association (CMA) has been working and will continue to work closely with Gov.  Newsom and public health officials as they respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. CMA has set up a COVID-19 resource page, where you will find links to the latest news, research and developments on the COVID-19 outbreak for physicians and other health care providers. 


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