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California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a new executive order aimed at providing further protections to food-sector workers laboring on the state’s front lines of the coronavirus outbreak.
Newsom on Thursday announced during his daily, live-streamed press conference that he had signed an executive order providing a supplemental two weeks of sick leave for food-sector workers, from farmers to servers to delivery workers “that have contracted COVID-19, been exposed to it, or have been exposed in isolation by quarantine orders by federal and state health officials.” The governor said he worked with the California Grocers Association and the United Food and Commerical Workers International Union (UFCW), among others, on the policy.
“I hope this will significantly address some of the anxiety our farmworkers have, some of the anxiety our fast food workers have, some of the anxiety around the delivery of our food and those workers have about their own health,” said Newsom during the conference. “We don’t want you going to work if you’re sick. And we want to make sure you know that if you’re sick, it’s okay to acknowledge it and it’s okay to let your employer know and still know you’re going to get a supplemental paycheck for a minimum of two weeks.”
Also during his Thursday address, which was delayed from its usual time slot after a call between state governors and President Donald Trump ran long, Newsom offered updates on the latest number of coronavirus deaths and cases in California. Sixty-nine people had died in the last 24 hours due to the virus, he said, marking a total of 890 deaths in California to date. “It’s a very sober total,” he added.
Those who have been hospitalized in the ICU number 1,191 as of Wednesday, marking a 1.4 percent day-over-day increase. Hospitalizations fell slightly in the past 24 hours, as 3,141 were hospitalized in the period. “Now we’re seeing from one of the first days in this pandemic a modest decrease in hospitalizations,” said the governor, although he cautioned viewers not to put too much stock in single-day changes.
When it comes to testing,18,800 people have been tested in the past 24 hours, but Newsom hopes to increase daily testing capacity to 25,000 tests per day. “We’ll still need to broaden our testing capacity” to reduce a testing backlog and reopen the state economy, he said. During the question-and-answer portion of his appearance, the governor said the biggest remaining challenge in testing was “equity.” He explained, “Those with means, those with resources, those with connections … find opportunities of support often ahead of others,” and the state needs to fill in the gaps.
Newsom additionally thanked state residents who have volunteered for the California Health Corps, which asks health care workers and students to volunteer to help staff hospitals that are treating individuals battling COVID-19. “We continue to encourage and hope for more volunteers,” he said.
When asked by one reporter whether he would follow former presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren in endorsing presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, Newsom responded, “You’ve just reminded me of politics.”
As of Thursday, Los Angeles County reported 10,496 positive cases and 402 deaths to date, with a mortality rate of 3.8 percent. According to an ethnicity study conducted on 330 individuals who died of COVID-19, 34 percent were Latinx, 31 percent white, 17 percent Asian, 15 percent African American and two percent belonging to another race or ethnicity.
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