On. Dec. 3, Governor Newsom announced a new regional stay at home order as COVID-19 numbers continue to climb statewide. The new order will be tied to intensive care unit (ICU) capacity in the state’s five regions if it falls below 15%.
The thought of Californians not being able to receive the care they need because a hospital bed is not available is heartbreaking. Too many families are being impacted, including many in CDCR. As Secretary, I am committed to ensuring our more than 60,000 employees do their part to avoid this scenario.
The order also means that many state offices will be closing effective Monday, Dec. 7. Anyone who is not performing critical functions is expected to telework and direction will be forthcoming from your hiring authority. We also know that institutions, juvenile facilities, and other critical areas must remain open to support critical functions like health care, custody, meals, delivering critical supplies, etc. To those staff, I give special thanks.
In our institutions, the large population and physical layout make us particularly susceptible to the spread of COVID-19. So too does the fact that a large portion of our population is aging and has chronic health issues. We have seen how quickly this disease can invade an institution, and how devastating it can be. We will continue to operate with limited movement, staggered schedules for dining and yard, and protocols in place for physical distancing and disinfecting. Additionally, procedure masks are required and provided at all institutions, and cloth masks are required at all other work sites. I expect you to wear yours properly – covering your mouth and nose – to protect yourself and those around you. Supervisors and executives are performing spot checks throughout our institutions and work sites to ensure compliance, and those not following directions will face disciplinary action. Your mask should be considered as another tool in your belt, designed to help you in all you do to protect others.
More information on how this new order will impact CDCR, including telework, is forthcoming, and will be made available to all staff.
Many regions are expected to hit the ICU 15% capacity mark in the next week, and state health officials will be tracking the numbers closely. While the new order is similar to one earlier this year, it also has some key differences. For instance, in addition to essential businesses remaining open—like grocery stores, gas stations, hospitals, etc.—this time around, schools that are already conducting in-person instruction and some retail businesses will be able to remain open as well. Additionally, some outdoor activities like hiking, running, and outdoor gyms will also be available with some restrictions.
The important message here is that as a community, we need to stay at home as much as possible to reduce risk and exposure. While there are several exceptions, it is critical for all of us to continue practicing physical distancing, wearing face coverings, and avoiding large gatherings.
I am grateful to every staff member for their dedication and perseverance throughout COVID-19. I knew before this pandemic that CDCR and CCHCS staff are the finest correctional employees in the world – this crisis has only cemented that fact. In particular, those who work in our institutions have faced this virus on the front lines every day, working to keep those who live and work in our prisons safe and healthy. This surge in California’s COVID-19 cases is real, and it is happening right now, all around us. By taking the necessary precautions at work and in the community, you are protecting the well-being of all Californians. I know this is difficult, especially after a long year away from our loved ones and heading into the holiday season. But these are actions we must take to protect one another. I appreciate each and every one of you and know we all want the same thing – a safe, healthy California.
Let’s do our part, not only as public servants, but as Californians. I encourage everyone to read the Governor’s press release on this for more information, as well as the state’s COVID-19 web page, which will update regularly on the stay at home order.