Gov. Gavin Newsom delivered his daily update on California’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and talked about wildfire preparedness ahead of Thursday’s release of the May budget revision. You can read highlights below or watch the full press conference above.
COUNTIES MOVING FARTHER INTO PHASE 2 OF REOPENING
There are now 10 counties approved to move further into Phase 2 of reopening than the rest of the state, Newsom said. Those counties are now able to add dine-in options and more personal services.
Those counties are:
- El Dorado
Newsom discouraged people from traveling for non-essential purposes, including people traveling to counties that have loosened restrictions. He did say that it’s less significant in areas where multiple counties are moving into further reopening together.
MAY BUDGET REVISION — CUTS COMING
The governor noted that he will be introducing the May budget revision to the state Legislature tomorrow. The state’s budget, which he said will be released at noon, did have to be pulled back in certain parts of the Cal Fire and Office of Emergency Services budgets, Newsom said, but he declined to expand on specific details beyond these areas of the budget.
“The federal government must do more to support these states,” Newsom said. “We need the federal government.”
Cuts to police, fire, and first responders can be avoided with federal government support, Newsom said, particularly at the county level.
$86 MILLION CAL FIRE BUDGET INCREASE
Newsom spoke from a local fire department in El Dorado County about emergency preparedness ahead of this year’s fire season, talking about dealing with fires amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The governor’s office will be recommending an $85.7 million increase in Cal Fire’s budget, Newsom said. It’s specifically to improve surge capacity and to hire personnel before the peak of this year’s fire season, he said — roughly 600 people to help protect the public from wildfires.
“You’ve got to walk and chew gum at the same time,” Newsom said. “We’re focused on coronavirus mitigation, trying to do our best to suppress the spread. At the same time, we’ve got to suppress and mitigate these fires.”
Newsom said that fire suppression, despite the current economic challenges, is still a top priority.
In the past week, there were 246 wildfires across the state, Newsom said. There’s been about a 60% increase this year in the total number of wildfires. Last year, between January and May 10, there were 675 wildfires — this year, there were 1,135 in that timespan.
This has been a below average year for precipitation, Newsom said, with a lower snowpack.
Cal Fire Chief Thom Porter spoke about wildfire response, prevention, and preparedness. He offered recommendations for residents on hardening homes from fire, as well as on helping neighbors — particularly the elderly — to prepare. Porter recommended that people visit ReadyForWildfire.org. Porter said there will be tens of thousands of wildfires to deal with this year.
MORE WILDFIRE PREPAREDNESS
The Public Utilities Commission is building a team of 106 people that will create a Wildfire Safety Division within the commission, before later becoming its own independent entity, Newsom said. It will be part of the budget revise announcement made by the governor Thursday, he said.
PG&E has significantly increased its safety protocols as it works to come out of bankruptcy, Newsom said.
The Office of Emergency Services budget will be up $127 million in this year’s budget, Newsom said, monitoring not just wildfires but other disasters such as earthquakes. Among other changes, there will be an additional $38.2 million for disaster relief in the May revise budget.
LATEST CORONAVIRUS NUMBERS
There were 87 coronavirus-related deaths in California yesterday, with 1,759 new positives. A total of 32,222 tests were conducted Tuesday. ICU numbers were down 0.3% — the governor said that those numbers are moving from stability to a slight decline.
Newsom said that, while Tesla has chosen to reopen its car manufacturing factory against Alameda County orders, enforcement is in the hands of the county. That’s because that kind of activity is now allowed under the state orders, Newsom noted. However, he added, it appears that the county and Tesla have managed to work out their disagreement.