A child typing on a Chromebook. (Photo by Laurie Sullivan/Flickr)

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California has secured approximately 70,000 laptops, Chromebooks and tablets to help students learn at home while school campuses remain closed during the novel coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Gavin Newsom and his wife Jennifer Siebel Newsom announced this week.

Siebel Newsom worked with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, California State Board of Education President Linda Darling-Hammond and Newsom’s Chief Deputy Cabinet Secretary Ben Chida to lobby companies throughout the state to provide technology to students that will help them participate in online learning and “bridge the digital divide,” she said.

About one-fifth of California students lack resources like a computer or a stable internet connection to participate in online education.

In addition, Siebel Newsom said, a recent study found that about half of low-income families and 42 percent of families of color in California were anxious about the prospect of so-called distance learning during the pandemic because they lacked a home computer.

“The fear these parents have that their children will fall behind without Internet access and devices is very real,” she said.

The effort builds on Gov. Newsom’s April 1 announcement that Google would provide 100,000 points of WiFi and broadband internet access throughout the state for at least three months, as well as several thousand Chromebook laptops to students to assist in distance learning efforts.

The state has established a task force focused on erasing the digital divide for students throughout the state, an issue that has existed for decades but is now more obvious due to the pandemic, Thurmond said.

“I’m grateful to the leadership of our governor and our state board president and others who join me in believing that as we respond to the needs of our students to learn in this pandemic, that we must do so in a way where we once and for all close the digital divide,” he said.

Thurmond will co-chair the task force with state Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino. The group meet for the first time Monday, which was broadcast on Facebook.

As of Tuesday, health officials around the state had confirmed a total of 33,862 coronavirus cases, including 1,223 deaths, according to Newsom. In addition, about 1,200 people are in intensive care due to the virus, with at least 3,257 currently hospitalized across the state.