“We are exhausted,” Governor Gavin Newsom said at one point in a speech today, a phrase that could have related to drought, wildfire, mass shootings, or any number of emergencies California faces today, but the target was COVID, and Newsom was specific.
“We are exhausted by the Ron Johnsons, the Tucker Carlsons, the Marjorie Taylor Greenes,” Newsom said. “We are exhausted by the right-wing echo chamber that has been perpetuating misinformation around the vaccine and its efficacy and safety.”
Before the governor came out swinging against “the politicization of this pandemic,” he noted the necessity to have more Californians vaccinated as an essential part of continuing students’ education in person in classrooms and in keeping the business economy growing at this stage of the pandemic.
California’s vaccine rate had moved upward by 16 points over the past week, or roughly 255,000 more people, reversing a decline that had been slowed by million-dollar and more modest financial incentives to get vaccinated. About 75 percent of the state has had at least one dose of the dual-dose vaccines or the Johnson & Johnson single-doser, Newsom said. Equally important was that people in zip codes with the lowest vaccination rate were now being vaccinated.
At the same time, California averaged more than 7,500 new COVID cases over the weekend, which put the case rate at 9.6 per 100,000 residents, compared to 1.9 cases per 100,000 on May 15, state public health officials said. Among the unvaccinated, the rate was about 14 per 100,000; for the vaccinated, around two per 100,000, a seven-fold difference. Hospitalizations and ICU admissions had increased as well, and officials had every expectation the death rate would soon follow.
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With Newsom at Kaiser Permanente’s flagship hospital in Oakland this morning was that district’s State Senator, Nancy Skinner, who noted that the Delta variant hadn’t caused serious illness in vaccinated persons, but “who knows what the next one will be like?” The more it can prosper in a host — “and we’re the host,” she said, evoking a science-fiction nightmare come true — the more variants the virus produced, one of which could be more dangerous: “We want out of this pandemic, and the vaccine is the way.” Also joining Newsom was the district’s Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, who said her children were too young to be vaccinated, one of whom would start pre-K this fall. If more people were vaccinated, she noted, more young children would be shielded from coronavirus.
California’s next step in combating COVID-19, and to push the yet-to-be vaccinated toward the shot, was to require state employees to show proof of vaccination. Health-care and congregate-care workers employed by private companies may no longer self-attest to their vaccination status; verification through a vaccination card or verification code was needed.
A mandatory shot was not being called for; rather, if an employee were not vaccinated, they would need to be tested once a week; unvaccinated frontline hospital workers would be tested twice a week and advised to wear an N95 mask. In places such as outpatient clinics and dentist offices, once-a-week testing was advised, and surgical masks were recommended. Full compliance was to take place by August 23 to increase the safety and feeling of security among patients and the public, said state public health officials.
Around 246,000 state employees would be affected by the new rule, Newsom said, in a state that led the nation in first-time vaccinations. He praised the private sector and businesses, like Kaiser, for being willing participants in the new measures.
For those opposed, Newsom called it a choice they were making: “With all due respect, you don’t have a choice to go out and drink and drive and put everyone’s lives at risk.” Newsom pointed out that some “pundits, who are profiteering from misinformation” did it while being vaccinated themselves because their employer required it. The megaphones that spewed misinformation came “at a real societal cost,” he said. The politicization around mask-wearing, and comparisons to the Holocaust, were disgraceful, Newsom added. “It’s unconscionable. And it needs to be called out.”
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