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Trump approves Major Disaster Declaration in state of California

Xinhua | Updated: 2020-03-23 11:35
US President Donald Trump addresses the coronavirus response daily briefing at the White House in Washington, March 19, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

LOS ANGELES - US President Donald Trump has approved California's request for a presidential Major Disaster Declaration to bolster the most populous US state's COVID-19 emergency response efforts, California Governor Gavin Newsom said Sunday.

The announcement came hours after Newsom sent a letter to Trump to request the action in response to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Earlier today we requested a presidential Major Disaster Declaration and this afternoon we got it," said Newsom. "The declaration will supplement our state's comprehensive COVID-19 surge planning and make vital resources available."

"We appreciate the quick response and partnership from the White House," he added.

The governor noted in his letter that "unfortunately, California has been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19."

"Besides California being home to nearly 40 million people, which itself poses significant logistical issues few other states face, California partnered with the federal government in several extremely complex and challenging repatriation missions, which strained California's resources and impacted California's healthcare delivery system," Newsom wrote in the letter, adding that COVID-19 is rapidly spreading in the state day by day.

"The crisis is having wide-ranging impacts on families, communities, and in every sector of California public and private life," he explained.

The Major Disaster Declaration enables individual assistance programs to assist those affected by the outbreak and lessen its economic impacts, according to a statement of Newsom's office.

It allows for additional assistance, including but not limited to mass care and emergency assistance, crisis counseling, disaster case management, disaster unemployment assistance, disaster legal services and the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

The Major Disaster Declaration has also been approved by Trump and applied in the state of New York and the state of Washington.

Trump also approved Newsom's request on Sunday to deploy the US Navy medical ship Mercy to Los Angeles to provide additional medical support. The ship, now docked in San Diego, will be deployed to the port of Los Angeles within a week. The ship with 1,000 hospital beds will be used to bolster local hospitals' treatment of other diseases instead of COVID-19.

Trump has agreed to activate the National Guard in three states --California, New York and Washington -- which are hit the hardest by the spread of COVID-19. California National Guard is being deployed at the request of Newsom to assist food banks due to the shortage of volunteers.

Additionally, Trump also announced at a Sunday news conference that California would also get eight large federal medical stations with over 2,000 beds.

There are more than 1,700 positive cases and 35 deaths related to COVID-19 in California so far, according to a continuous Los Angeles Times survey of numbers released by local health agencies across the state.

In another letter published last week to Trump, Newsom warned that 56 percent of Californians, or around 25.5 million people, will be infected with the virus over an eight-week period.

California has taken extraordinary steps to protect public health in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Newsom signed emergency legislation last week allocating 1.1 billion US dollars to fund the state's response. He also issued a statewide stay-at-home order to ask all nearly 40 million Californians to stay home unless it is absolutely necessary to head out, noting that it is for the preservation of public health and safety of the state.

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