CALIFORNIA (REUTERS) - California's governor said on Monday (March 23) that the state will likely need 50,000 more hospital beds to accommodate a surge in coronavirus patients predicted by computer modelling.
Governor Gavin Newsom, speaking at a news conference, said the California hospital system could make emergency adjustments to provide up to 30,000 of those beds but that another 20,000 would be required if predictions of the course of the illness prove true.
"We're identifying convention facilities, fairgrounds. We're identifying specific assets throughout the state, including motels and hotels, not just for the homeless, but potentially to provide capacity," Newsom said.
The UD Navy hospital ship Mercy departed San Diego on Monday and was expected to dock in Los Angeles in about a week, providing 1,000 beds, according to a spokesman for the US Department of Defence.
California, the nation's most populous state, has been hard hit by the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic, with more than 1,700 confirmed cases and 27 deaths. Those Navy ship beds will be used to treat patients not infected with Covid-19, the Defence Department has said, easing the strain on hospitals.
There have been more than 40,000 coronavirus cases nationwide, with more than 500 deaths.
Newsom said the number of cases in California was expected to "substantially rise" now that the state had begun to increase testing.
State officials have gone to the open market looking to purchase some 200 million pieces of protective gear for doctors and nurses treating patients with Covid-19, Newsom said.
Some 1,000 ventilators produced by Tesla co-founder Elon Musk had arrived in Los Angeles, and Musk was working with the hospital association to distribute them, Newsom said.
Governors and mayors across the United States have become increasingly desperate in their pleas for help from the federal government to fight the pandemic. The US military prepared to set up field hospitals in New York and Seattle - the two hardest-hit US cities - to ease the strain on overwhelmed health services.
Newsom said he had ordered the closure of all state parking lots after seeing people gathered at parks and beaches over the weekend despite a sweeping order that California residents stay home to help slow the spread of coronavirus.
"These are soft closures, to reduce the stress on those beaches. I don't want to close big, beautiful open spaces," he said. "But we can't see what we saw over the weekend happen again."