A day after he resoundingly defeated a Republican-led recall effort, Gov. Gavin Newsom touted California schools’ safety record and doubled down on his push for vaccines, masks, testing and other measures to curb the spread of Covid.
“California has one of the lowest case rates in America. Why? Because we led with science,” Newsom said while visiting an Oakland middle school campus Wednesday afternoon. “I’m grateful for the school districts that didn’t just embrace the mask mandate, but the spirit of the mandate. … But I’m not naive. This isn’t over. We have to maintain our vigilance.”
Newsom, who defeated the recall effort by nearly 30 percentage points, spent about an hour at the middle school campus of Melrose Leadership Academy, a K-eight dual-immersion school in Oakland Unified. He visited a student leadership class, talked to students about elections and gave out ice pops on the playground.
Calling California classrooms some of the safest places for students to be, Newsom pointed to the relatively low school infection rates and the willingness of students and staff to comply with Covid safety guidelines. Only nine schools in California have been forced to close due to Covid outbreaks since campuses reopened last month, he said, compared with about 2,000 nationwide. Melrose Leadership Academy had 11 positive cases when the school first opened but zero since then, he noted — evidence that Covid safety measures are working.
Newsom said he felt energized by his time with the students and humbled by the election results.
“Do I feel vindicated? I see this as a gift. It’s a privilege to represent the fifth-largest economy in the world, one of the most diverse democracies,” he said. “I feel enlivened, but also a deep sense of responsibility, because people are counting on us to keep them safe and healthy.”
He also noted that the pandemic allowed him and the Legislature to quickly push through an education agenda that may have taken years otherwise. He pointed to the state’s $125 billion allotment for K-12 schools, the largest in state history; funding for after-school programs for all students; free meals for all students; an extended school year; and college savings accounts with state-provided seed money for all children in California.
But challenges lie ahead, he said, such as combating vaccine misinformation, protecting families facing eviction and spurring an economic recovery amid the continuing pandemic.
“While California has seen a decline in hospitalizations, I’m mindful that we saw a decline, as well, this time last year before a winter surge,” he said. “We have a lot more work to do.”
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