California Requires Free COVID-19 Testing

Governor Intensifies State Response After First Death Announced

Governor Gavin Newsom signed a new executive order meant to allow the extension of in-home supportive services (IHSS) during the COVID-19 outbreak. | Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

Intensifying California’s efforts to contain COVID-19, Governor Gavin Newsom issued directives today addressing the anticipated public costs incurred for the illness, quarantine, and business effects, affecting as many as 24 million Californians. The first death in the state was reported on March 4, a man in his seventies who had returned from a Grand Princess cruise on February 21.

At the governor’s direction, all full-service health insurance carriers must lower to zero the cost for screening for the virus, including co-pays, deductibles, and coinsurance. This includes hospital and emergency room visits, urgent care treatment, and visits to provider offices. The directive also states insurers must waive preauthorization when the care involves COVID-19, permit out-of-network care when required, and specifically mentions telehealth — or virtual visits with a health-care provider via video.

Additionally, the governor announced support to citizens and businesses affected by the disease. Anyone who falls sick with COVID-19 and must stay home can file for disability insurance, which generally ranges from 60-70 percent of wages. Paid Family Leave is a form of disability insurance and is available for up to six weeks to people caring for a sick family member. For employers, the state has opened the UI Work Sharing Program, which enables employers to curtail worker hours if necessary and allows employees to receive unemployment insurance benefits to make up the shortfall in wages.

California lawmakers have been asked for $20 million for the state’s COVID-19 response, and 21 million N95 masks were released from the state’s emergency supplies.

Newsom’s office stated the provisions announced today addressed the rising COVID-19 numbers in California. In addition to the single death, 60 positive cases exist, and 9,400 people who had come through San Francisco or Los Angeles international airports were self-monitoring their health condition. Over the weekend, thousands of test kits had arrived from the Centers for Disease Control headed for 15 public health labs, including Ventura’s, with 48-hour turnarounds expected. With more people being tested, the number of COVID-19 positives is expected to climb.

Except among the very young. A number of medical studies are agreeing that little to no illness appears in children 10 and younger but plenty of virus action, the Los Angeles Times reported. Because the children had less-developed immune system, the studies speculated, the immune response that caused pneumonia to flood the lungs was not happening in children. They simply had mild cold symptoms or the sniffles.

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