California Gov. Gavin Newsom came out swinging Monday against media outlets and personalities that have sought to cast doubt on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines, calling them “pundits profiteering off misinformation.”
Newsom was also highly critical of those who have decided not to get the vaccination, citing the danger posed to overall public welfare.
“Individual choice not to get vaccinated is now impacting the rest of us in a profound, devastating and deadly way,” Newsom said.
Newsom spoke at a news conference in Alameda County in to announce that the state of California will mandate starting next week that all 246,000 state employees as well as the state’s health care workers be vaccinated or comply with mask rules and testing protocols.
As of Aug. 2, state employees will have to comply with a vaccine “verification” program to confirm their vaccination status State workers who are not vaccinated will be required to wear masks indoors and to submit to COVID-19 testing at least once a week. Newsom urged private employers to considering taking similar steps. He emphasized that the state has partnered on these vaccination-related protocols with large private health care providers such as Kaiser.
The move comes as COVID-19 infection rates and hospitalizations are rising in the state and across the nation. California registered a 16% increase in the number of people who were vaccinated last week versus the prior seven-day frame, which is seen as a sign that outreach efforts are making an impact. About 75% of Californians eligible to receive the vaccine have received at least one shot.
The entertainment industry is carefully watching federal, state and local efforts to battle the fourth major wave of the virus in the hopes of a bullish rebound to pre-pandemic level of business activity including movie-going, concerts and live events. Safety protocols instituted by the state will surely have influence on how Hollywood adjusts its own work rules for film and TV productions.
Amid the spike in infection rates, Newsom and other state and local officials are stepping up efforts to promote vaccination as the road to returning to everyday activities without masks and other protection, in-person public education and to keep the state’s economy moving in the right direction.
Newsom was blunt in calling the decision not to take the vaccine “a choice” that has significant social consequences.
“It’s a choice to live with this virus. With all due respect you, don’t have a choice to go out and drink and drive and put everyone’s lives at risk. That’s the equivalent,” he said, adding that vaccine hesitancy is “putting innocent people’s lives at risk and businesses at risk.”
The threat of not reaching a higher level of herd immunity by the fall and winter months — when the flu and other respiratory ailments will only add to the health care burden — is clear. Newsom predicted the state will see “a significant increase in hospitalizations if we continue down this path. Our projections are sobering,” he said.
With obvious frustration, Newsom noted that state officials and health care workers are “exhausted by the right-wing echo chamber spreading misinformation about the vaccine. Mask-wearing is equated to Holocaust. It’s unconscionable. It needs to be called out.” Newsom name-checked Fox News primetime opinion star Tucker Carlson and Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson.
Newsom didn’t cite names but he pointed to the hypocrisy of media personalities who have courted viewers and clicks by casting doubt and in some cases spread bald-faced misinformation about the health risks of the various vaccines that have been in use since late last year. Newsom called it “the failure of too many who have megaphones spewing misinformation” while getting vaccines themselves and working for companies that require COVID safety measures.
“That’s a hell of a thing,” Newsom said. “It’s time we call that into question and call some of these people out. That’s the spirit that brings mere here today.”
In an earlier briefing, officials from California’s Health and Human Services Agency and Department of Human Resources painted a stark picture of how the spread of the more contagious Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus is hitting hardest among those who have not been vaccinated.
COVID hospitalizations are up to about 3,000 as of July 26, officials said, citing a gain of 200 in just 36 hours, compared to less than 150 on May 15. Of those hospitalized, 669 are in intensive care units.
State officials are seeing about 7,500 positive COVID cases per day, which is up from the seven-day average of 6,400. That makes for a case rate of 9.6 per 100,000 people, which is up sharply from May when that measure stood at 1.9 per 100,000 people.
In Los Angeles County, the positivity rate stood at a seven-day average of 4.53%. Hospitalizations stood at 716 people as of July 25.
The hospitalization rate picked up over the weekend as more than 600 people were admitted to hospitals for COVID per day from Friday through Sunday across the state.
Among unvaccinated Californians, the COVID positivity case rate per 100,000 people is above 14. For those who have had the shot, the rate is hovering around 2, officials said.
The vaccine verification plan extends to health care workers at hospitals, nursing homes and other long-term and acute care facilities, officials said Monday.
(Pictured: California Gov. Gavin Newsom)