By Renée Santos

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a new campaign on Tuesday to help the state’s seniors fight social isolation and food insecurity amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The governor urged Californians to check in on people over the age of 65, the population uniquely at-risk to COVID-19.

“No older Californian should be forced to go outside to get groceries or their medication,” Gov. Newsom said at a press conference on Tuesday. “It’s on all of us across the state to check in on the older adults in our lives – our friends, family and neighbors – to help them during this outbreak.”

Newsom said people should check in on their vulnerable neighbors with a call, text or appropriately socially-distanced door knock.

“Each and every one of us must reach out in a safe way to make sure our older neighbors have someone to talk to and have enough food to eat during these difficult times,” Newsom said.

Neighbor-by-neighbor, Newsom is asking people to make at least five calls to check in on someone.

As part of the push, the governor also announced a new hotline that will help connect older Californians to services and supplies they may need during the pandemic. The hotline number is 1 (833) 544-2374.

Newsom’s initiative to help the elderly during isolation is very similar to what Eskaton is doing now.

READ ALSO: Answering The Call: Sacramento Nonprofit Sees Surge In Volunteers To Check On Seniors

The organization already helps with a telephone reassurance program that involves volunteers calling and checking in on the elderly.

Betsy Donovan, Chief Operating Officer with Eskaton, says just within the past three weeks, calls have gone from around 500 to 600 a day. Many of the volunteers identify the needs of the elderly by simply asking how they are doing.

“This generation doesn’t want to be a bother they don’t want to have to count on others, so they may not reach out. We need to reach out to them,” she said.

It’s a call connecting seniors to a smile or a need that may have been overlooked if someone didn’t pick up the phone.

“It really depends upon the amount of connection that is created through some of these initiatives. I do think they are going to make a difference,” Donovan said.

READ: Sacramento Sisters Start Non-Profit To Deliver Groceries To Seniors And Most Vulnerable

Giving an update on Monday’s push to get more help to the state’s healthcare workforce, Newsom also announced that more than 25,000 licensed medical professionals had signed up to be part of California’s Health Corps initiative in just 24 hours.

“We have just been overwhelmed by the generosity of spirit,” Newsom said.

Newsom noted that the medical professionals would obviously be vetted, but he was still comforted by the outpouring of support.

“I’m inspired. I’ve never been more damn inspired in my life,” Newsom said. “To see that number – 25,000 yesterday alone – [of] processionals willing to come back out of retirement to put their lives on the line … that makes me sleep well at night.”

The governor also noted that, while the reduced rate at which California has been seeing confirmed coronavirus infections is encouraging, we’re still not out of the woods yet.

Health experts have told Newsom that California should expect to see the peak of COVID-19 in May.

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