Governor Gavin Newsom provides update on state’s response to wildfires, heat wave, and COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 12:05 PM, Aug 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-19 17:48:02-04

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Governor Gavin Newsom discussed a number of topics Wednesday, including an update on the state’s response to wildfires, the West Coast heat wave and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Crews were battling wildfires in the San Francisco Bay Area and thousands of people were under orders to evacuate Wednesday as hundreds of wildfires blazed across the state amid a blistering heat wave now in its second week.

Gov. Gavin Newsom blamed the extraordinary weather and thousands of lightning strikes for 367 known fires, including 23 major fires or groups of fires. He said the state has recorded nearly 11,000 lightning strikes in 72 hours. Ash and smoke filled the air over San Francisco, which is surrounded by wildfires burning in multiple counties to the north, east and south.

The heat has placed extra stress on California's power grid, and led to rolling blackouts Friday and Saturday. The governor said Wednesday night looked like the "last challenging night" of the week. Wednesday's Flex Alert will take effect an hour earlier in hopes of avoiding rolling blackouts, with Californians urged to conserve energy between 2 p.m. and 9 p.m. to avoid major blackouts.

In his press conference Monday, Newsom admitted the state wasn't adequately prepared to deal with the record heat wave, and the resulting rolling blackouts.

As far as the COVID-19 pandemic, Newsom said the positivity rate over 14-day period in the state is at 6.6%. Newsom said the state has now tested over 10 million people.

"We've seen a decrease in the total number of hospitalizations over that 14-day period," Newsom said. "We're seeing a little bit of stabilization in the decrease in hospitalizations."

Newsom said ICU admission rates are down 13% in the last 14 days.

Two counties, San Diego and Placer, have also dropped off the state's Monitoring List this week. Newsom said if things continue to improve, he sees San Francisco County could be dropped from the list as early as Thursday. If it does, the county monitoring list would consist of 39 out of the state's 58 counties, including Kern.

"We want to see this list get down to zero," Newsom said. "This is not a permanent state. We will see a decrease in the transmission, we are seeing a decrease in the transmission of COVID-19."