New ‘Health Corps’ initiative aims to beef up medical workforce in California — and fast
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and wife Pricilla Chan, who is a notable pediatrician and philanthropist, live streamed a question and answer session with Gov. Gavin Newsom Monday, March 30.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is trying to beef up the state’s medical workforce as health care officials brace for a projected influx of new coronavirus patients in the next eight weeks.

The initiative, dubbed “Health Corps” includes a new website and promises to remove barriers for medical workers looking to return to the industry after retirement, or to streamline the process for others to get licensed and placed in hospitals.

In addition to nurses and doctors that would traditionally work with acute physical illnesses, the state is also looking for dentists, pharmacists and behavioral health professionals, such as psychiatrists to sign up on the newly-launched website.

“As it relates to personnel and people, nothing is more valuable and nothing is more important to meet this moment,” Newsom said Monday during a news conference. “If you are a nursing school student or a medical school student, we need you. If you’ve just retired in the last few years, we need you. If you are looking to expand your practice and have any particular expertise in any particular capacity, we need you.”

Governor Gavin Newsom joins California health care workers on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19 to announce a major initiative to surge California‘s health care workforce.

Posted by California Governor on Monday, March 30, 2020

The initiative comes after the number of Californians hospitalized due to the novel coronavirus has doubled in the last four days, according to Newsom. Intensive care units have tripled their patient counts in that time, he added.

So far, 135 people across California had died from the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19. Meanwhile 5,763 people have tested positive for the virus in the state.

Santa Clara County has been hit particularly hard. As of Monday, 28 people had died from the virus in the county and 848 more had tested positive for the respiratory illness.

State officials have estimated California needs 50,000 more beds to handle a projected influx of COVID-19 patients in the coming weeks. Those officials have worked to expand existing hospital capacity and secure temporary locations to set up medical wings.

To that end, the Santa Clara Convention Center was converted last week into a temporary federal medical station with 250 beds. Earlier this month, the state acquired the embattled Seton Medical Center in Daly City to ensure doctors and nurses there would care for COVID-19 patients, rather than allow the facility to close.

And as the state looks to recruit workers to care for patients in those new hospital beds, Facebook on Monday promised $25 million to mobilize and support medical workers.

The money donated by Facebook will be used for stipends for medical personnel who need things like transportation and childcare money, or who need funds to stay in a nearby hotel after a long shift.

“We are happy to support the efforts that you are taking,” Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg told Newsom during a livestream on Facebook Monday.

“I think we are grateful on behalf of a lot of people for the strong actions that you’re taking,” he added, before launching into a question and answer session about the state’s response to COVID-19 so far.

Live with Governor Newsom and Priscilla to talk about California's response to the COVID-19 outbreak and the efforts to surge healthcare across the state.

Live with Governor Gavin Newsom and Priscilla to discuss California's response to the Covid-19 outbreak and the efforts to surge healthcare across the state.

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Monday, March 30, 2020

The state is promising malpractice insurance and pay for medical workers who show up to treat patients during the outbreak. But California didn’t have the money to address the personal and logistical concerns the Facebook funding will help solve, Newsom said.

“We are very grateful to Facebook for providing those stipends,” Newsom said while announcing the funding. “That’s the spirit of California, that is the spirit of this moment and that is the spirit of what is driving our resolve.”

Follow along with San José Spotlight’s real-time coronavirus coverage on our LIVE BLOG here.

Contact Janice Bitters at janice@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @JaniceBitters on Twitter.

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