Governor Newsom taps National Guard to bolster COVID-19 testing capacity

On Friday, Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he would be activating the state’s National Guard to increase COVID-19 testing capacity.

The announcement comes amid a surge in coronavirus cases primarily driven by the omicron variant. 

“California has led the country’s fight against COVID-19, implementing first-in-the-nation public health measures that have helped save tens of thousands of lives,” Newsom noted in the statement. “We continue to support communities in their response to COVID by bolstering testing capacity.”

The action comes in addition to the existing 6,000 testing sites that have been created across the state as well as the recent demand-based expansion of hours at the sites.

Around 9.6 million tests have been distributed to schools since early December. California has also consistently had some of the most restrictive mitigation measures in the country, yet cases have continued to climb. 

According to the governor’s office, over 200 Guard members will be deployed to 50 Optum Serve sites. Their job is to act as interim clinical staff members until permanent staff members can be hired. Guard members will also add capacity for walk-ins, assist with crowd control, and fill in for staff members who may be absent. Additional Guard members will be deployed next week in similar capacities. 

The omicron variant has continued to spread rapidly across the globe and accounting for at least 80 percent of the coronavirus cases in California. Deploying the National Guard will bolster the state’s testing program, which the governor’s office described as “the most extensive in the nation.”

Right now, 90 percent of Californians live within a half-hour drive to a site. Despite the surge, California has been able to maintain a turnaround time of 48 hours for PCR tests.




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