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Governor Newsom updates state’s wildfire and disaster preparedness during COVID-19 pandemic

The Governor outlined the budget and plans as the state prepares for response, prevention, and preparedness for wildfires.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Wednesday’s update by the California Governor was focused on how the state is preparing to combat wildfires during the COVID-19 pandemic after Tuesday's update focused on modifications for businesses during the stay at home order.

Newsom pointed out that just in the past week, 246 wildfires occurred in the state. So far this year, there have been 1,135 wildfires throughout the state.

"That represents a 60% increase this year compared to last year," Newsom said.

The revised state budget is expected to be released on Thursday afternoon. Newsom went into specifics on certain elements that are related to wildfire and disaster preparedness. 

One item that will be presented is a $127 million increase to the budget related to monitoring and oversight for all other hazards. This includes disaster preparedness for earthquakes as well as wildfires.

In addition, there is a proposed $85.7 million enhancement for Cal Fire to increase surge capacity and to hire an additional 600 critical personnel to help prepare and protect the state during wildfires.

"By July of this year, we will have an additional 26 new engines all throughout the state of California, including four incident command units," he added.

The state is continuing to add resources to support the efforts to improve efforts to fight fires. Along with the additional 26 new engines, the state is also moving forward with a plan to add 12 Black Hawk helicopters to help with wildfire suppression efforts.

The Governor also revealed that the Public Utilities Commission will create a new Wildfire Safety Division  to monitor and ensure that utilities are updating their transmission lines to reduce the risk of sparking a fire.

"We are in a place we have never been in the past in terms of oversight, accountability and transparency," he added.

The governor also announced the most recent and up-to-date coronavirus numbers. He said 87 people died over the last 24 hours, and additionally, 1,759 people tested positive while the number of patients in ICU beds went down 0.3 percent while the hospitalizations went up slightly 0.5 percent.

Newsom noted that now the state has tested over 1,065,000 people for COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

RELATED: Coronavirus in San Diego and California: Latest updates and news

RELATED: California governor unveils guidelines for dine-in restaurants to reopen


View all News 8 coverage of coronavirus / COVID-19

News 8 has joined forces with The San Diego Foundation to raise immediate, emergency funds for our most vulnerable neighbors in need. 
Here is how you can help. 

We also have a Frequently Asked Questions page we will continue updating with the latest information and reports. 

Click here to watch "Facts Not Fear," a News 8 Special on coronavirus from March 26, 2020.

BACKGROUND: 

According to the CDC, coronavirus (COVID-19) is a family of viruses that is spreadable from person to person. Coronavirus is believed to have been first detected in a seafood market in Wuhan, China in December 2019. If someone is sick with coronavirus, the symptoms they may show include mild to severe respiratory illness, cough, and difficulty breathing. 

Currently, there is no vaccine, however, the CDC suggests the following precautions, as with any other respiratory illness: 

Know how it spreads: 

  • There is no vaccine 
  • The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus
  • It is thought to spread mainly from person-person between people in close contact
  • And believed to be spread by respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes

Protect yourself

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds
  • If soap and water aren't available, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Put distance between yourselves and others

Protect others

  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Wear a facemask if you are sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash
  • If you don't have tissue, cough or sneeze into the inside of your elbow
  • Immediately wash your hands after coughing and sneezing 
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe

You can find information on disinfecting and cleaning on the CDC's How to Protect Yourself page.

The California Department of Public Health has issued guidance on the use of cloth face coverings to protect against the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19. 

The County of San Diego has made face coverings mandatory for those working with the public including grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, convenience stores, and similar businesses.

While officials say these face coverings are not a substitute for practices like social distancing and handwashing, there is evidence to suggest that the use of cloth face coverings by the public during a pandemic could help reduce disease transmission. Officials do not recommend the public use N-95 or surgical masks which are needed by health care workers and first responders.