Hundreds of Calif. health professionals tell Gov. Gavin Newsom: it’s time to shut down, start over and do it right

Media Contacts
Emily Rusch

Vice President and Senior Director of State Offices, The Public Interest Network

With COVID-19 surging in California, more than 1,000 experts ask the governor to prioritize public health


Oakland — Today CALPIRG repeats its call on Governor Newsom to hit the reset button on the state’s response to containing the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) as cases continue to signal an “uncontrolled spread” in the state. More than 1,200 health professionals nationwide, including nearly 250 from California, have now signed an open letter to America’s decision makers urging them to shut it down, start over, and do it right this time to contain COVID-19 and save lives.

“Governor Newsom needs to hit the reset button,” said Emily Rusch, Executive Director of CALPIRG. “Although we slowed the virus down in the spring, we moved too quickly to reopen without containing the virus. Now we’re facing the consequences, with an ‘uncontrolled spread’ happening throughout much of the state.” 

Reliable data is critical to managing the virus, and the recently disclosed glitch causing significant delays in COVID-19 case reporting in California demonstrates how precarious our knowledge is of the virus’ current spread. CALPIRG is urging Governor Newsom to close non-essential businesses, limit restaurant service to take-out, and mandate that masks be worn in all situations, indoors and outdoors, where we interact with others. People should stay home, going out only to get food and medicine or to exercise and get fresh air. 

Based on what we are learning from other states and countries’ experiences, these protocols should stay in place until the positivity rate, the percentage of COVID-19 tests coming back positive, is at least under 2 percent. Even still, once the positivity rate hits 2 percent or lower, the state should not start reopening again unless it meets the following criteria laid out by health experts:

  • Enough daily testing capacity to test everyone with flu-like symptoms plus anyone they have been in close contact with over the last two weeks (at least 10 additional tests per symptomatic person). Currently, the United States has only 35 percent of the testing capacity it needs to meet that threshold. California is not meeting the criteria. 

  • Enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep essential workers such as health professionals, emergency responders and grocery store clerks safe.

Federal support is key to helping states reach these benchmarks, and so far it’s been sorely lacking. That’s why CALPIRG and the experts are also urging the Trump Administration and Congress to provide a national strategy and resources for ramping up testing infrastructure around the country and ensuring that all essential workers get adequate PPE. 

“Telling the hard truths and making the hard calls now will save more lives later. That’s why we’re calling on our leaders to rise up to the challenge. Half measures will only lead to more suffering,” finished Rusch.


CALPIRG is a consumer group that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society. Visit for more info.