On Wednesday, August 19th, at noon PDT, Governor Gavin Newsom provided an update on the state’s response to wildfires, the West Coast heat wave, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Governor opened by acknowledging that the West Coast continues to experience a heat wave. This has led to “many red flag warnings, including a significant number of lightning strikes - 10,849 lightning strikes in the last 72 hours,” he said. Also, Newsom noted there is the prospect of world record temperatures in California.
Newsom also spoke about the active wildfires throughout the state, some sparked by the lightning strikes. In total, there are 367 known fires burning statewide and 23 major/complexes burning. As it relates to the 23 major fires, the Apple Fire is 95 percent contained; Lake Fire is 38 percent contained; Loyalton Fire is 35 percent contained; Holser Fire is 30 percent contained; and the Ranch Fire is 19 percent contained. However, there are also several major fires that are not currently contained including CZU August Lightning Complex; LNU Lightning Complex; Carmel Fire; and the Jones Fire. Yesterday, a statewide state of emergency was declared to help the California avail itself of resources to combat those fires.
Newsom said, “What has happened in the last 72 hours in this state has stretched our resources.” Fires, on top of the threat of rolling blackouts, while juggling a pandemic. Despite the budget shortfall, the state increased CalFire’s budget by $85.6 million for firefighting efforts. California has also requested 375 engines from outside the state to help with firefighting efforts. Arizona and Nevada have already sent equipment.
In terms of actions the state has taken to conserve energy – an emergency proclamation was issued to shift energy and an executive order was signed so energy users and utilities could temporarily use backup sources. Additionally, the state worked with major consumers to reduce usage. Finally, an investigation into what happened and implications for the future is underway.
Newsom did say that tonight will probably be the last that Californians have to limit electricity use to reduce the risk of service disruptions. Temperatures are supposed to drop after today. Californians should avoid using too much power between 2-9 pm in order to get through "the last challenging night," Newsom said. Turn off unnecessary lights, close curtains, delay your dishwasher, etc.
Regarding the pandemic, Newsom addressed the latest COVID-19 numbers, including the hospitalization and intensive care unit (ICU) patient figures. There are 5,061 (1.7 percent increase) positive COVID-19 hospital patients. Of those patients, 1,606 patients (1.1 percent increase) are in the ICU. Hospitalizations went down 14 percent and ICU admissions similarly decreased 13 percent over the last 2 weeks, but that trend line is hitting plateau over last few days. Latest COVID-19 positivity rates in California: 6.6 percent over the last 14 days and 6.3 percent over the last 7 days.
Newsom also stated that currently there are 40 counties on the state’s monitoring list. There were 42 on Monday— San Diego and Placer dropped off. It is expected that San Francisco will come off list as early as tomorrow. The list can be found here: https://covid19.ca.gov/roadmap-counties/.
During the Q&A portion of the briefing, Newsom was asked about a specific school in Sacramento reopening under the guise of a day care center to resume in person learning. In response, he said, “You're going to see some different approaches, strategies, people testing boundaries of the state orders. As is the case in most of these instances, I want to thank local health officers for enforcement in this space.”
On federal unemployment relief – Newsom said his Administration has been working with the federal government to draw down additional benefits. “We want to be among the first cohorts of states to draw down that money. From day one, we asserted an interest and processed it in formal applications with federal partners.”
In terms of reopening guidelines – Newsom said he is working with local health officers on new criteria as it relates to opening certain businesses. The plan is to share those more formally this weekend with health officers and make them public next week.
Regarding mutual aid – firefighting resources are stretched in ways we haven't seen in years, Newsom said. Local authorities determine what to give, and that's just part of the protocols and processes.
In terms of energy reliability, Newsom said, “We cannot allow this to be a permanent state of anxiety, so we're going to be more aggressive than ever in pushing efforts on storage capacity….The solution to addressing the ravages of climate change is not to make the climate change even more acute and more devasting, by continuing to drill, continuing to go back to the old way of business…”
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has announced the most recent statistics on COVID-19. There are now a total of 632,667 (+0.7 percent increase) confirmed positive cases and 11,342 (+0.9 percent) deaths in California. As of August 12th, there have been 10,049,039 tests conducted in California and reported to the California Department of Public Health. This represents an increase of 115,259 tests over the prior 24-hour reporting period. More information regarding the most recent COVID-19 statistics can be found here.
On August 18th, Newsom declared a statewide emergency to help ensure the availability of vital resources to combat fires burning across the state, which have been exacerbated by the effects of the historic West Coast heat wave and sustained high winds. The text of proclamation can be found here and a copy can be found here. A copy of the Governor’s office press release can be found here.
Additionally, on August 17th, with the West Coast heat wave projected to intensify over the coming days, Governor Gavin Newsom today signed an executive order to free up additional energy capacity. The Governor also signed an emergency proclamation that temporarily allows some energy users and utilities to use backup energy sources to relieve pressure on the grid during peak times during the energy emergency and today sent a letter to CAISO, the CPUC and CEC demanding an investigation into the service disruptions that occurred over the weekend and the energy agencies’ failure to predict and mitigate them. A copy of the Governor’s office press release can be found here.
The https://www.covid19.ca.gov/ website is being updated continuously. A complete list of the state’s ongoing COVID-19 response efforts can be found here.
McHugh Koepke & Associates
1121 L Street, Suite 103
Sacramento, CA 95814