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'I'm not afraid' | Healthcare workers, students anxious as California looks bolster workforce for 'temporary flexibility'

Retired nurse Anna Gonlez immediately signed up following Gov. Newsom's order. "We're all looking for our part, and I'm not afraid. It's something I want to do."

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Within the last four days, hospitalization for COVID-19 has more than doubled in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday in what has become an almost daily virtual update on the state's efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The increase in cases is part of the reason why he announced an executive order calling on all Californians in the healthcare field to meet this crisis.

With the order comes the initiative: Health Corps. The initiative encourages anyone with medical experience — retired nurses/doctors, medical/nursing students, technicians, therapists — to visit online to register and put their skills to much-needed use.

"We are calling on you to step up, step in and meet this moment," said Newsom. "We are very hopeful with this effort that we will see a surge of individuals to be paid, compensated and in the workforce and distributed in the state of California."

RELATED: California needs 50,000 additional hospital beds, Gov. Newsom says

The order will be in place until June 30 and will provide "temporary flexibility" to increasing the number of professionals in the medical field.

It will help expedite nursing and medical students close to graduation entering the field or working on provisional licenses, relicensing retired medical professionals and finding new ways for those with different medical expertise to pivot.

Newsom said he hopes the order will pull "thousands" of medical professionals from a pool of 37,000 to add to the 766,000 already working state-wide.

According to the Health Corps website, those registering will be paid and given malpractice insurance.

Retired nurse Anna Gonlez immediately went onto the Health Corps following Newsom's announcement. She said she received a call and email within hours of registering.

She said she hopes to put her skills to use at a local drive-thru for COVID-19 testing. 

"After spending so many years in the field and where we're at right now, it just broke my heart. I wanted to do something," said Gonlez. "Any part is a big part right now. We're all looking for our part, and I'm not afraid. It's something I want to do."

It's unclear where Gonlez would end up working if she is allowed to.

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The governor's office told ABC10 in a statement that "deployments will depend on an area's need."

At least 5,763 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in California, a number that's expected to rise in the coming weeks as the state completes the 56,550 coronavirus tests on backlog in commercial, academic and private labs.

"As we are only hours into this effort to recruit new folks to perform this work, no determination has been made on where these healthcare workers will be assigned," said the governor's Office of Emergency Services in a statement to ABC10.

Still, there are people anxious to start helping, especially those just starting their careers.

Nursing student Nadia Basidiq was set to graduate from American River College on May 20, until her school closed.

But now she hopes Newsom's new order will allow her and her classmates to expedite the process and help others.

"It's really exciting. As a class we were all watching the press conference at the same time and cheering him on," said Basidiq. "We're desperate to get back into the clinical setting. It's been really hard to stay home and do nothing."

Follow the conversation on Facebook with Andie Judson.

(Editor's Note: This article has been edited to clarify that the 37,000 figure is the pool of medical professionals that the state is recruiting from.  A specific target number wasn't cited in today's media briefing. Gov. Newsom said the state is looking for "thousands" of medical professionals.)


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