Coronavirus California: Gov. Newsom announces hotel voucher program for healthcare workers

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KGO) -- In his daily briefing on the state's fight against the novel coronavirus, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a program to give hotel vouchers to healthcare workers who are exposed to or test positive for COVID-19.

Workers can visit the website CalTravelStore starting on Friday, April 10 for the phone number to book a room. More than 150 hotels are participating in the program, Newsom said.

"We need to talk more about care for our caregivers," said Newsom, calling hospital workers "the real heroes" of the pandemic.

"The idea that you're doing a 12-hour shift and at two or three in the morning have to drive all the way back home only to get back up and do a double shift ... that's not appropriate and that's not right. We need to do better for these workers," the governor said.

Newsom added United, Southwest, Alaska, and Delta Airlines are offering free flights for anyone who is traveling to California to serve in the state's Health Corps program. So far there are 86,516 Health Corps workers, far surpassing the initial goal of 37,000.

Known cases of COVID-19 rose to 18,309 and 492 people have died, the governor said. Hospitalizations rose by 4.1% (to 2,825) and ICU hospitalizations rose by 1.9% (to 1,132), more modest increases compared to double-digit rises the state was seeing as recently as one week ago.

On Wednesday, Newsom addressed the state's efforts to secure more personal protective equipment, or PPE, like N95 masks and hospital coveralls.

Newsom said he put in a formal request the federal government for $1.4 billion in funding to secure more "PPE of all stripes." The protective equipment would go to hospital and health care workers, as well as other high-risk groups like grocery store workers, DMV employees and those doing homeless outreach.

Additionally, Office of Emergency Services Director Mark Ghilarducci announced the state would be obtaining new technology to sterilize used N95 masks, allowing them to be used again. Ghilarducci said the technology would arrive in California sometime next week and would be able to sterilize 80,000 masks per day.

Newsom added the technology would allow masks to be re-used up to 20 times and he had already directed certain groups to stop disposing of masks so they could be sterilized starting next week.

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