ADAM BEAM, Associated Press
More than 80% of the people eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine in California have received at least one dose, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday, a pandemic milestone for the nation’s most populous state amid signs a recent surge in new cases is abating.
Newsom said the news puts California among the top 10 states in vaccination rates, despite having the population of 21 other states combined. Inoculations have steadily increased in recent weeks after Newsom announced state employee s and teachers must either be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing. He’s also requiring all of the state’s roughly 2.2 million health care workers to get vaccinated or risk losing their jobs.
Newsom says California has averaged 600,000 doses administered for the past two weeks, with the number of vaccine doses administered having increased 44% since July Fourth.
“But again, 80% is not where we need to go. We still need to reach out to those that are on the fence,” Newsom said Tuesday at a vaccine site in Oakland. “I encourage everybody that hasn’t been vaccinated to avail themselves to these lifesaving vaccines that are not only effective, but are truly the answer to how we get this pandemic once and for all behind us.”
Of all the people tested for the coronavirus in California, about 4.6% test positive for the virus — among the lowest rates in the country. That rate has fallen from 7.1% just a few weeks ago, Newsom said, and is likely a byproduct of more people being vaccinated. While it is possible for vaccinated people to still get the virus, data has shown those cases are rare and mild.
Despite California’s progress with vaccines, a surge of new cases from a more contagious version of the virus is straining resources in smaller, more rural counties. In Mendocino County, home to less than 100,000 people along the Pacific Coast north of the San Francisco Bay Area, close to 10% of everyone tested for the virus is positive.
While more than 74% of the county’s eligible population has received at least one vaccine dose, county hospitals and health clinics are still overrun with patients, according to an open letter signed by 66 health care workers in Mendocino County.
“The great majority of hospitalized patients are unvaccinated. Our emergency departments are overflowing. Our hospitals are full. Our ICUs are full. We struggle to find hospital beds even for the patients who are coming to the emergency department with strokes, heart attacks, or appendicitis,” the group wrote. “We can all do our part in this dire situation by getting vaccinated.”
State lawmakers had discussed passing a bill in the final weeks of the Legislative session that would have required coronavirus vaccines for people to go to work and most other public places. But the lawmaker behind the bill, Democratic Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks, told the Sacramento Bee the bill won’t be considered this year.
Newsom said his administration had been “actively engaged” with Wicks about the bill “to see what’s possible.” But Newsom said he is not planning to expand vaccine or testing mandates to include more people right now, saying: “We want to see what we have put up implemented and applied.”
“As things change as the mutations change and sequencing directs us in different ways, then we’ll consider subsequent actions. But right now we want to see what we have put up implemented and applied,” he said. “We support local government’s efforts to go even further.”
Some local governments have gone further, including Los Angeles and Oakland, by requiring all city workers get vaccinated to keep their jobs unless they have a medical or religious exemption.