One day after handily defeating an effort to recall him from office, Gov. Gavin Newsom visited an elementary school in Oakland Wednesday to tout the state’s progress in getting children back in school and combating the COVID-19 pandemic.
Oakland Unified School District students are currently in their fifth week of the fall term, Newsom and district Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell said while visiting Melrose Leadership Academy, which includes students in transitional kindergarten through eighth grade.
Newsom argued that the state’s vaccine requirement for teachers and masking requirement for both students and teachers have aided in keeping schools open and the virus’ spread in schools at bay.
“(Melrose) had 11 cases in the first few days, but that was from the summer community spread,” Newsom said. “And they’ve had no cases since, because the protocols have been put in place.”
Newsom added that the state has only seen nine of its more than 10,000 public schools close because of COVID-19 case outbreaks since the school year started five weeks ago.
California has started to emerge from its summer surge of cases, which was primarily driven by the highly transmissible delta variant and a disproportionate number of cases among the unvaccinated.
On Tuesday, California became the only state in the country to move out of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s highest level of community virus transmission.
More than 82 percent of eligible state residents have also received at least one vaccine dose, which Newsom touted as one of the highest rates in the country and argued is the primary driver of the state’s declining case data.
“We’ve seen a stabilization of this disease,” he said. “I’m mindful that it was around this time last year we started seeing that stabilization and decline as well,” before the state’s winter surge in cases that prompted state officials to issue a stay-at-home order for many of the state’s counties.
Newsom added that while state officials are “satisfied” for now with how many residents across the state have gotten vaccinated against COVID-19, that is subject to change if the state faces another large surge in the months ahead.
“We are not timid in terms of leaning in and anticipating the changing dynamics,” he said.
Democrats across the state had argued frequently in the weeks leading up to the recall election that the state’s progress in combating the pandemic would be nullified if he were ousted from office.
Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Oakland, said the recall election in which roughly two-thirds of voters chose to keep Newsom in office is validation of the state’s efforts to quell the pandemic.
“It’s not always popular to make hard decisions,” she said. “But good leaders make hard decisions, and that’s what Gov. Newsom did.”
Newsom was more measured in describing what the recall results meant for his governing mandate, arguing that he has a responsibility to reduce partisan anger while keeping in mind that time spent in public office can be fleeting.
“For me, coming out of this recall, I want to turn the page and express respect and a deep sense of responsibility not just to those that voted no on this recall, but those who voted yes,” he said. “They matter, I care and I want them to know I’m going to do my best to have their backs as well.”