California’s slow vaccine rollout a critical test for Newsom

Frontline healthcare workers who work in roles with high risk of exposure to infectious disease received their initial doses of the new COVID-19 vaccine recently approved for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)

Gov. Gavin Newsom has a lot of political capital riding on his goal of vaccinating 1 million additional Californians by this weekend.

Apart from school reopenings, no issue looms larger for Newsom’s third year in office — and his ability to fend off a growing recall movement — than the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine, which has so far been plagued with logistical and technical problems. Only eight states have administered fewer doses per capita than California, which as of Sunday had administered only 27% of its nearly 3 million doses — a decline from the 35% rate the state notched last week.

  • Newsom in a Monday press conference: “We recognize that the current strategy is not going to get us to where we need to go as quickly as we all need to go.”

To help pick up the pace, Disneyland Resort in AnaheimDodgers Stadium in Los AngelesPetco Park in San Diego and Cal Expo in Sacramento are being converted into vaccination sites for frontline workers and, eventually, the general public. The state also recently loosened its vaccination guidelines to ensure that doses don’t go to waste if refused by high-priority groups. The guidelines — developed by numerous working groups — were intended to prevent well-connected Californians from accessing the vaccine before those in need.

But former Assembly Speaker and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown argued in a recent San Francisco Chronicle column that the state should be administering the vaccine to as many people as possible.

  • Brown“It would be for everyone — no Phase 1A, Phase 1B and other confusing classification categories. And Gov. Gavin Newsom: Such a program would end the recall talk overnight.”

In other coronavirus news, hospitalizations and intensive-care admissions are beginning to level off — “a point of some optimism” Newsom attributed to the regional stay-at-home orders. And, in a signal 2021 will be no less chaotic than 2020, two gorillas at a San Diego Zoo park have tested positive for COVID-19.

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Monday, California had 2,710,801 confirmed cases (+1.5% from previous day) and 29,965 deaths (+0.9% from previous day), according to a CalMatters tracker.

Also: CalMatters regularly updates this pandemic timeline tracking the state’s daily actions. And we’re tracking the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations by county.

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