In a grim press conference where he announced “few if any” California schools will re-open before summer break, California Governor Gavin Newsom also floated the possibility of “martial law.”
In readying the National Guard for action, Newsom’s office emphasized that it’s for duties routinely performed during natural disasters and other emergencies. But Newsom grimly added that “we have the ability to do martial law … if we feel the necessity.”
Imposing martial law would take the extraordinary step of replacing the usual laws with military authority, with the possible suspension of civil liberties like freedom of association and movement.
U.S. and California health officials have repeatedly warned that the virus could have a devastating impact and that the timetable for controlling it isn’t known. President Donald Trump on Monday said the crisis could last until August.
California’s 415 hospitals have been planning for a surge of patients. They have about 88,000 beds and Newsom said health officials are running models to determine needs based on various infection rates and resulting hospitalizations. Under worst-case scenarios, California could be short 20,000 beds, he said.
“So we had a very candid and a sober if not sobering conversation about where we may be and where we need to go together,” he said after the meeting with hospital officials. “The good news is none of it surprised any of us. We as a state, working with our system, anticipated much of these needs and have been running plans to address them.”
He said the state should have the two large hospitals in its possession as early as Friday and will use money from the emergency authorization to get them ready for service.