SACRAMENTO (CBSLA) – California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday a new initiative to recruit both retired healthcare professionals and medical and nursing students nearing the end of their studies to help the state meet the surge in coronavirus patients expected over the coming weeks.

Sailors transport the first patient aboard the hospital ship USNS Mercy into the casualty receiving area March 29, 2020, off the coast of Los Angeles. (U.S. Navy/Getty Images)

In a news conference Monday, Newsom unveiled the new California Health Corps website which “will provide a platform to match individuals who may have retired in the last five years, may be in the process of getting licensed or re-licensed — people that are in nursing schools or medical schools that are nearing the completion of those efforts — to incorporate and encourage them to get on this platform to provide for the kind of human capital surge that we’ll need to meet the moment over the course of the next number of weeks as these numbers continue to rise.”

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Gov. Newsom confirmed Monday that there are currently 1,432 coronavirus patients hospitalized statewide, including 597 in ICU beds.

He estimates there is a pool of about 37,000 retired professionals and students for the state to call upon. Those being sought include:

  • Physicians (MD, DO), including medical students
  • Pharmacists
  • Dentists
  • Nurse practitioners
  • Physician assistants
  • Nurses (RN, LVN, CNA), including nursing students
  • Behavioral health professionals (psychiatrist, psychologist, psychiatric nurse practitioner, LCSW, LMFT, LPCC)
  • Respiratory therapists
  • Paramedics
  • Medical assistants
  • Emergency medical technicians

Healthcare workers will get paid and be given malpractice insurance, officials said.

Newsom emphasized that any protocols and licensing requirements which have been relaxed to address the pandemic are temporary.

“This is temporary, this is not permanent, no games are being played,” Newsom said.

Officials clarified that students who join the surge response will later have to be evaluated by their respective licensing boards to determine whether they can be immediately given their full license, or whether they will have to return to the classroom and their clinical rotations to complete their licensing when the coronavirus pandemic response is over.

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“Depending on where they are in their training, we’re obviously looking to people who were near graduation to fulfilling their degrees,” California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said. “Many are not able to finish those last couple of months because schools are out because of the COVID-19 response. So who better than those folks who are really closing to being done to bring into the workforce now, essentially continue their clinical training with the support of experienced nurses or other health professionals?”

Meanwhile, Newsom said the state currently has 4,252 ventilators, but has a goal of reaching 10,000.

“I just wanna encourage folks, if you have a line on ventilators, it doesn’t matter if they’re brand new, maybe you have a few pieces lying around your basement or the house, I don’t need to be flippant, we’ll take them,” Newsom said. “We’ve got the folks here in Silicon Valley that can do miracles with old equipment.”

About 32.6 million N95 masks have been distributed, but the state is trying to meet a goal of 101 million.

“Every couple days more of that personal protective equipment (PPE) comes in, not just N95 masks, but coveralls and shields and gowns and glove sets and the like. As soon as we get them in, we get them out,” Newsom said.

As of Saturday, there were more than 4,600 confirmed COVID-19 cases in California and 101 deaths. Newsom has estimated that the state will need an additional 50,000 hospital beds to be able to handle the number of projected patients.

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“When you see a tripling of the ICU beds, when you see a doubling of hospitalizations just over a four-day period, that’s a point, not just of consideration, that’s a point of obvious concern as it relates to our ability to meet, not only the physical needs of that surge, but the personal protective equipment that is required,” Newsom said Monday.