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California getting technology to sterilize used N95 masks, state emergency director says

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KGO) -- Gov. Gavin Newsom updated the public on the spread of the novel coronavirus and the fight against it in his daily briefing at noon Wednesday.

The focus of Wednesday's address was on the state's efforts to secure more personal protective equipment, or PPE, like N95 masks and hospital coveralls.

Newsom said he put in a formal request the federal government for $1.4 billion in funding to secure more "PPE of all stripes." The protective equipment would go to hospital and health care workers, as well as other high-risk groups like grocery store workers, DMV employees and those doing homeless outreach.

So far, Gov. Newsom said the state has obtained 4.5 million N95 masks.

"While we've had a little national support from the national stockpile, we haven't relied on that," said Newsom.

Additionally, Office of Emergency Services Director Mark Ghilarducci announced the state would be obtaining new technology to sterilize used N95 masks, allowing them to be used again. Ghilarducci said the technology would arrive in California sometime next week and would be able to sterilize 80,000 masks per day.

Newsom added the technology would allow masks to be re-used up to 20 times and he had already directed certain groups to stop disposing of masks so they could be sterilized starting next week.

As the state increases its efforts to obtain more protective equipment, the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in California continues to rise.

As of Wednesday, there were 16,957 known cases and 442 deaths, according to Gov. Newsom.

The number of those hospitalized and the number hospitalized in intensive care units rose modestly (about 4%) over the past 24 hours, but it was the death toll that spiked by 68 deaths in just one day.

"Sadly, it was one of our highest death rates in the state so far," said Newsom.

On Tuesday, Newsom said there were signs the curve of new infections was "bending."

"The curve is bending, but it is also stretching," said Newsom. "We are seeing a slow and steady increase but it's moderate. It's moderate because of all the actions you have taken in terms of physical distancing."

RELATED:Is California's 'peak' coming next week? Here's what experts say

While California is still seeing coronavirus infections increase, Newsom pointed to the lower hospitalization numbers as a sign social distancing may be preventing out-of-control spread of the virus. He warned the state has still not seen its "peak" in cases.

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By: Alix Martichoux