Jan 25, 2021
California Gov. Gavin Newsom COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript January 25: Lifts Lockdown
California Gov. Gavin Newsom held a COVID-19 press conference on January 25. He lifted regional stay-at-home orders. Read the transcript of his coronavirus briefing speech here.
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Governor Newsom: (07:02)
Well, good afternoon, everybody. Let me just jump right into the news of the day. Effective immediately, all the regions in the state of California, recall there are five regions that we have defined when we established our stay-at-home order last month, all regions effective immediately are no longer in the stay-at-home order and will move back into the blueprint, a blueprint many of you are familiar with, the blueprint we refer to as a blueprint for a safer economy. We’ll talk more about that in just a moment. You recall, again, those five regions, Northern to Southern California, San Joaquin Valley, the Bay area, and the greater Sacramento regions. The regional stay-at-home order went into effect after a region fell below 15% ICU capacity. In order to come out of the stay-at-home order, as greater Sacramento region did just recently, we project forward over a four-week period, and we determine ICU capacity either meets or exceeds 15%. And I want to talk more, and Dr. Ghaly is here as well to talk more about our projections and our confidence level as it relates to the decision that we are announcing here today.
Governor Newsom: (08:20)
Here is the projection of capacity on February 21st. This is four weeks from today. We look, again, at capacity, looking through the lens of a number of variables, clearly estimated ICU capacity. That’s foundational, 15% being that baseline. But we also look at community transmission rates. Remember, ICU is a lagging indicator. What’s happening with positivity rates, case rates, community spread really is the forecast that gives us confidence on where we will land in a number of weeks. We look at case rates more broadly defined on a regional basis, and clearly, we look at the proportion that percentage, Dr. Ghaly’s talked a lot about this, percentage of cases, individuals that are hospitalized that end up in the ICU.
Governor Newsom: (09:09)
So you can take a look here at the regions, these being the five regions in the state. Our projection statewide is in the aggregate being at 30.3% on the 21st of February. They’re, again, variables that are constantly changing, but these are the projections. You can see in Southern California it would exceed even that state rate. San Joaquin Valley, a little bit below, Bay area, tiny bit below, greater Sacramento, Northern California. So the goal of this announcement is to socialize our projections, as well as luminate and further advance an understanding, a deeper understanding of what today means and what it doesn’t mean. It’s in that respect that I want to remind folks we’re not out of the woods. We’re seeing a flattening of the curve. Everything that should be up is up. Everything that should be down is down: case rates, positivity rates, hospitalizations, ICUs, testing starting to go back up, as well as vaccination rates in this state, but we are not out of the woods.
Governor Newsom: (10:15)
I’ll remind people that blueprint was established with purple, red, orange, and yellow tiers. We simplified that blueprint a number of months ago. Many of you, again, recall that blueprint on the basis, the most restrictive tier being the purple tier, and the least restrictive tier being the yellow tier. Here’s our current tier status. And by the way, tomorrow this status will be updated when Dr. Ghaly gives his Tuesday presentation. But you can see the current status and all the commensurate requirements, modifications, and restrictions that are part of each tier. And I’ll remind everybody if they want to learn more about the tiering and remind themselves or just dust off a little bit of understanding of what red means versus orange, go to the covid19.ca.gov website, covid19.ca.gov website.
Governor Newsom: (11:09)
Purple tier, just as an example and now that we are in purple tier for those vast majority of counties, means restaurants can open for outdoor dining with modifications, nail/hair salons can open with modifications, certain youth sports can resume for competition, in particular with, again, modifications and considerations. I noted that tomorrow an update on those tiers will be provided by Dr. Ghaly and we’ll consistently update and hope an expectation if these trend lines continue that we’ll be moving, we hope, quickly through tiers, again, based upon our behavior individually, collectively, based upon our success at continuing to mitigate the growth and spread of this virus.
Governor Newsom: (11:58)
Today, we can lay claim to starting to see some real light at the end of the tunnel as it relates to case numbers. You can see the 27,000 number. That’s reflected on over 400,000 tests that came in on that reporting period, 403,000 tests on January 24th, 27,000 cases. The seven day average now below that 27,000 based upon the 400+ thousand total tests, not surprisingly. But the encouraging sign is that seven day average down to 23,283. Take a look at the positivity rate. Now, this is the 14-day positivity rate now is down to single digits to 9.4%. It was substantially higher just a few weeks ago. You could take a look here at 13.6% two weeks ago, 9.4% today. The seven-day rate, even more favorable. Again, 14-day rate at 9.4%, but the seven-day positivity rate’s down to 8% in the state.
Governor Newsom: (13:03)
And I want to put this in perspective. People often ask or often overlook how we’re doing vis-a-vis other states in this respect on positivity rates. We’re faring better than more than half the states in the nation. And I compare some larger states here, Florida, Texas being notable large states, Pennsylvania from a population perspective certainly, and Arizona, just in terms of its regional proximity. And so you could see those positivity rates just as a proxy example of where we are. And this, again, data from John Hopkins, based upon data that was collected on the 25th.
Governor Newsom: (13:41)
Hospitalizations are down just shy of 20% now in the state over a two-week period, down. Not a rate of increased declining as we’ve seen in the past. Now we’re seeing a decreased, consistent decrease. All part of our projections, all part of our understanding in terms of the impact that positivity rates have on case rates, percentage of people that end up in the hospitals, and then a percentage still that end up in ICUs. And you see a 9.5%, close to 10% decrease over a two-week period, 14-day period, in ICU admissions, again, statewide. I’ll remind everybody this is statewide data. Each region’s a little bit different, but we are in a position, projecting four weeks forward with a significant decline in the case rates, positivity rates, we are anticipating decline still, more decline in hospitalizations and more declines in ICU, and that’s why we’re lifting that stay-at-home order effective immediately today.
Governor Newsom: (14:46)
Here’s a reminder of some of the things we’ve done and some new information. We have substantially increased the number of staff, federal and state staff that we’ve deployed in the last few weeks. We had some stretch goals of getting a thousand over the last week. We’re actually able to exceed that. Over 5,175 clinical staff now have been deployed. And remember, staff often means ICU capacity, which means we’re expanding that capacity. It’s not static ICU capacity. We could expand that ICU capacity. We’ve got these alternative care sites that we have opened up, 15 across the state. More resources, more equipment, oxygen supply issue. We’ve talked about that in the last few weeks. Our oxygen task force and some of the interventions and efforts that were advanced there, we have made progress. We also have been able to transfer critical patients to the hospital. Again, part of the regional understanding, the mutual aid system that exists within regions, that has also helped advance our efforts to address and respond to the surge. Over a billion now pieces of PPE have been delivered and we have, as you know well, prioritized vaccinating the vaccinators, vaccinating our healthcare workers as a top priority.
Governor Newsom: (16:03)
Deaths continue to be significant. This is a sober reminder of how deadly this pandemic remains, more so now than ever, as we have battled our way through the most challenging surge and now are seeing truly light at the end of that surge, at the end of the proverbial tunnel. You could see here just the seven-day average deaths, 504. It’s just a reminder of how important it is until we get vaccinated of maintaining our vigilance, avoiding mixing and continuing to do what we must to protect ourselves and our loved ones, and more broadly, the community that we share.
Governor Newsom: (16:46)
Here’s good news as it relates to vaccines, which are the ultimate advancement to addressing substantively those mortality/morbidity rates, and more broadly, this pandemic. We have tripled our rate of administration of the vaccine, and I’ll show you a chart that-
Governor Newsom: (17:03)
… of administration of the vaccine and I’ll show you a chart that marks the period of time. And we’re just getting going. I’ve made this point over and over and over again. It’s a flywheel, not dissimilar to what happened in the beginning here in California with the testing. But you can see with over 400,000 tests just yesterday in California. By the way, over 40 million tests this state has conducted, close to 41 million total. It gives you a sense… California, size of 21 states in America combined. This is more like a large ship. It takes a little bit of time to shift course but when it shifts course, builds tremendous momentum. That’s exactly what we have done and you’ll continue to hear more about, as it relates to our vaccine administration in the state tripling and we are on a good pace.
Governor Newsom: (17:48)
Here is an example. Just on the fourth, just a few weeks ago, we were doing daily vaccines of around 43,000. On the 15th, just as an example, just a two week period, you get a sense, or a 10 day period, 131,000 vaccines. We want to see that substantially increase. We have some medium term goals, long-term goals. We have some short term goals. We’ll be talking more about those. But certainly we want to see those numbers continue to increase significantly. And that will be a combination of many, many factors. A number of which we will discuss here in a moment.
Governor Newsom: (18:24)
You remember recall, a few weeks back we talked about this 10 day challenge. The 10 day challenge was really an opportunity to set a goal that at the time didn’t appear achievable, but in the process of pursuing it, we would develop a greater understanding of what the challenges were, what the issues were as it relates to accelerating that last mile. That last inch perhaps, but that last mile in particular, as it relates to the administration of vaccines.
Governor Newsom: (18:53)
Over the course of that period of time, we recognized the opportunity to simplify our eligibility framework. You’ve heard a little bit about that with the 65 plus cohort that we have advanced. We’ll talk a little bit more about that in a second.
Governor Newsom: (19:08)
We also are looking to standardize our information and data. Data has become a big issue. Data has become a big challenge for us. The data lag that’s led to some data that’s provided nationally that did not represent the data that we have internally, meaning we’re a number of days behind what the national numbers reflect in terms of the actual number of vaccines administered. And we could talk about why that’s the case and we are certainly happy to do that, but more importantly, what we’re going to do about it is really our focus here today. And moving forward, and frankly has been our focus for now a number of weeks. Supply being a big part of also getting to goal. And that is getting to herd immunity, getting vaccines to everybody that wants them administered and getting to a point where we can go back to some semblance of the new normal, with all the resiliency that now resides within each and every one of us, and ultimately will reside in the state and the nation and more broadly the world post pandemic.
Governor Newsom: (20:10)
So we have specifically addressed the issues around simplification by, as I noted a moment ago, clarifying that we believe that the cohort 65 and over needs to be prioritized, alongside healthcare workers, first responders, food and agricultural workers and school staff and teachers. So I want to make this clear. We want to continue to provide a framework of prioritization in that cohort, 65 and over. Remember 75% of the deaths are reflected in people 65 and over. We want health workers to continue. Want to work through that cohort, our original tiered strategy, consistent with the CDC and continue to do what we can to vaccinate the vaccinators, our first responders, our farm workers, our critical workers on the front lines and our food delivery system and our teachers in order to get our schools reopened as well as our support staff, that’s so foundational and critical not to ever be forgotten as it relates to making schools work.
Governor Newsom: (21:18)
This by the way is analogous. It’s not more complicated than whenever you’ve been to an airport and you’re about to board on an airline. They say, “Well, ladies and gentlemen. All first-class passengers.” Well, they don’t wait for every first-class passenger to be boarded before they announce all business class passengers. Accordingly, they don’t wait for all business class passengers before they announce premium class and then ultimately the economy class. The point is to try to move folks to board as quickly as possible, but with prioritization. That’s reflected here, 65 and over, and those cohorts that are represented.
Governor Newsom: (21:53)
We wanted though, more importantly as we work through this cohort, begin to transition and you’ll hear a lot more about this tomorrow in Dr. Ghaly’s update. So we’ll happily take some questions today, but tomorrow you’ll hear a lot more about the details of a strategy to transition. Once we work through those cohorts represented here clearly, to an age-based eligibility, which will allow us to scale up much more quickly and get vaccines to impacted communities much more expeditiously, with a framework always on equity. We’re not losing sight of any of those fundamentals, any of our values, but we realize we have got to increase throughput here. And while we are proud of the framework we put out, CDC put out and others, we recognize it has advantages and it has disadvantages as it relates speed and efficiency.
Governor Newsom: (22:48)
Look, I get this. This slide represents what you individually and what’s represented I assure you in my inbox are most concerned about, “When is it my turn? When is my number up? And I’ve got a sister, I’ve got a brother, I’ve got a preexisting condition. I’m not 65, I’m 64.” All of these questions, appropriate questions. We’re getting them… Everybody’s getting them, here in the nation’s largest state.
Governor Newsom: (23:14)
So when is your turn? Where can I get vaccinated when it is my turn? So what we are now seeing here is a standardization information database. We announced it a few weeks ago that we were going to get it done. By the end of January, we have gotten this pilot up as we noted a few weeks back. And we’ll talk about that in a moment, what the new platform is. But we have now developed, we believe it’s the most comprehensive end-to-end system of its type in the United States. But again, we acknowledge, it’s in its pilot phase. Again, we’ll talk more about that in a second. But it’s a centralized system to enter vaccines that are received and administered. And it’s a mechanism to fundamentally address this reporting lag, which again is very stubborn but very real. Those national numbers you see did not reflect the numbers of vaccines that have been administered.
Governor Newsom: (24:07)
That said, we have a solution to that and that is leveraging innovation, the technology. Leveraging some of California’s finest companies. We have a new scheduling system and a new data system. Again, it’s end to end. It’s not just a notification system as some other states have or a system for reservations, just with state clinics. This is an end-to-end system across the spectrum. Bottom-up, top-down, providers, whole spectrum of delivery system and a database that allows more immediate data to be transferred to the CDC and that index that is so often referred to in reflected in our nightly news.
Governor Newsom: (24:52)
That said, the idea is not very complicated. We want to provide you the opportunity to sign up on this app, the My Turn platform. You sign up. You get notified via text or email when it’s your turn. You can schedule an appointment when it’s your turn. As I said, it provides for providers the ability to have all that data automatically shared not only with the state, but ultimately allow us to quickly share that data with the federal government. So back end, front end. What you care about, when it’s my time, when do I get a schedule? When do I get a vaccine? When am I scheduled? And how close is it? And then of course, for providers, all of that, well difficulty with paperwork and the prompted questions and the old systems that many, many states not just the state of California, is struggling with.
Governor Newsom: (25:45)
We partnered with Salesforce. We partnered with Skedulo, which is a great company, and Accenture. We’ve got a pilot up and running. We started this last week in LA and San Diego. They started allowing individuals 65 and over, again with the prioritization of the cohorts we just mentioned a moment ago, to make appointments for those clinics that have signed up and come in to the pilot. And so the most important point I want to make about the My Turn pilot, it’s only as good as the clinics and provider network is good. It gets more robust as more people come online. And so in the pilot phase, we’re moving judiciously, but we’re moving relatively efficiently. But as more and more clinics sign up more and more opportunities avail themselves, more and more capacity is made available at least on this platform versus other mechanisms and platforms, in terms of finding out when it’s your turn to get vaccinated and how and where you could get vaccinated.
Governor Newsom: (26:43)
So we’re aiming for a statewide launch. We picked LA, not a small county, and San Diego. Two of the biggest. So we went big and bold in the pilot but we want to bring it to the rest of the state and we hope to do so in the next few weeks. We’ll be talking more about that. We just want to make sure we get this up. As I said, it’s the most robust end to end system of its type that any state’s put up. So it’s got a lot more components and we just want to make sure that we don’t run this thing into the ground and have a system that shuts down. And by the way, there’s been some other states, not an indictment, quite the contrary. We all should be humbled by the magnitude of this moment. We saw it on the appointment side. Everything is at scale now in terms of need. We’ve had other systems that have actually crashed within a few hours, because so many people went on and were overwhelmed.
Governor Newsom: (27:33)
That’s why we’re limiting this. Focusing it on this pilot and these two parts of the state. And so we continue to work with providers and we continue to advance the cause of getting more and more people to participate. And we look forward again, getting this out statewide in just a number of weeks.
Governor Newsom: (27:54)
Look, the bottom line on supply for us is we’ve had a very conservative approach of administering first doses at the local level. I’ll remind you, State of California doesn’t receive any doses. California doesn’t have any doses in its cap. We don’t have a warehouse of doses. They’re sent directly to counties, counties to providers. Some cases providers directly. It’s a complicated network. 5,000 folks in that broader provider network, over 3,500 active. Some very, very small. Some are very efficient, getting data back in the system. Some are very inefficient because they see that as tertiary, not even secondary to getting these things administered. And that’s what we’re discovering is a big part of the data lag.
Governor Newsom: (28:35)
So what we want to do is just push the envelope on getting these first doses out based on a conservative approach, which is in some respects understandable based upon the scarcity mindset that continues to be reinforced at the federal level. But we need to move and that means we are going to reallocate. People know this already. We’re just highlighting this, updating you this week that we will reallocate those providers that cannot. And by the way, that’s something that’s in the works, that is not something prospective, I can assure you.
Governor Newsom: (29:08)
We have a vaccine team. As you know, we’ve got three task force. We have our safety task force, we have our guidelines task force, our community advisory task force. We also have at the Office of Emergency Services, this broader logistics task force. We have an extraordinary person, Yolanda Richardson, running those efforts, running that task force. She is the task force vaccination czar, if you would. She doesn’t want that as her title, but just trying to reinforce what her real role is to drive things in a unified statewide approach.
Governor Newsom: (29:40)
The whole idea is a more unified statewide network approach as opposed to bottom up flu vaccines. Think flu vaccines, the original construct, bottom up. We want a little bit more of a command function to control variability, which we think is fundamental in terms of fast tracking the distribution of vaccine to maintain consistency. Yes, accountability, transparency, and also allow our healthcare system and the counties to do what they do best, which is a myriad of additional things, not just logistics as it relates to the vaccines.
Governor Newsom: (30:14)
Tomorrow, as I noted, and Dr. Ghaly’s here today, but tomorrow he will be laying out with Yolanda Richardson, some others, more details of that plan and what really we’ve done in the last few weeks to architect this in a more meaningful way. Not rhetorically, but a more substantive way. That’s building the real platform. And that’s the platform when we start to see substantial abundance of vaccines arriving in the state in a more consistent manner to make sure that we are truly prepared for that as we continue to make progress, again tripling the number of vaccines that we’ve administered in a very short period of time.
Governor Newsom: (30:53)
By the way, people have asked, “Where are you in relationship to President Biden’s goal of a hundred million vaccines in a hundred days?” We’re we’re well ahead of… Even today, where we are today, just to put it in perspective, that’s just 120,000 vaccinations currently. That’s per day, weekday, we’ve spiked up to 130. We’ll do much more than that in the next few weeks. But even if things were static. They will not be. But even if things were static, we would more than exceed the goal that was laid out by the Biden administration. So, I personally believe that’s not a particularly challenging goal to meet, save one major caveat, and that’s supply. And that’s foundational. Of course, there are attitudes related to vaccines that also need to be addressed and that’s not insignificant. So you combine those two, but substantively supply, there should be no reason that we can’t achieve that goal.
Governor Newsom: (31:45)
Speaking of goals, we had a goal, a very specific goal by this week, to extending eviction protections here in the State of California. We have a deal, just announced a few moments ago. Incredible leadership of our pro temp and our speaker. I want to thank them personally, their personal engagement on this. No one outsourced time and attention to getting a deal done. Now being socialized today to extend the eviction protections to June 30th. By the way I think it was 9:01 last night that the final final period, exclamation, preposition, adjective was worked out. And so we were working through the weekend and I just want to congratulate again, those leaders for a job well done.
Governor Newsom: (32:29)
People will continue to pay at least 25% of their rent through June 30th. Remember, this eviction protection was due to expire at the end of this month. Now will expire July 1st, in essence June 30th. We address the issues of debt and I don’t want to go into too much detail. You’ll get the detail when this is put forward to the legislature this week with urgency. But here’s the important thing that is urgent and I recognize it. And that’s the need for resources. One thing to get protections, another to be able to pay your rent when it is due and address the issues for small landlords that also have to pay mortgages and debt that they’ve accrued related to their properties as well.
Governor Newsom: (33:08)
And so $2.6 billion is attached to this deal as part of the federal funds. Thank you, Speaker Pelosi. $2.6 billion. That’s money that’s going direct to some counties and cities and obviously money that’s coming into the state. We’re going to leverage that $2.6 billion, focusing on low-income renters, targeting 50% of AMI, which is area medium income, up to about 80% of AMI. The whole idea is to leverage the dollars and look at paying back rent, about 80%, but also get about 20% of that rent forgiven. So that’s the strategy leverage. If landlords choose not to participate, no one has to, then there’s no direct federal benefit that goes to that landlord. But those tenants are able to at least get their lives a little more stable because they will continue on with their…
Governor Newsom: (34:03)
… Lives a little more stable because they will continue on with their 25% payment, but with the benefit of those federal dollars. And by the way, I’m not naive, none of us are to the issues of rent, but also utilities probably you’ll find, including water bills in this state. It’s been highlighted and we are grateful for all of the work that’s been done to highlight that critical issue, by the way, these dollars will help in that respect, in that regard as well. And so credit history, debt collection, notification rights, all those things we’ve stipulated as additional tenant protections, again, more details in the coming days.
Governor Newsom: (34:36)
Just remind you as always to wear a mask and try and do our best to keep our activities outdoor. Particularly now, as we’ve lifted the stay at home order, we move into this blueprint, back to the blueprint, which is a governor of sorts. So we’re not just reopening, but we’re reopening in these tiers. Well-established, well understood. And if, again, need to be reminded of the details around those, go to that covid19.ca.gov website. Whole idea is to keep our activities outside, keep you safe, work our way through the next number of months until we get to that herd immunity based upon the distribution access of vaccines, which we acknowledge we have work to do and more work in front of us that will be socialized tomorrow in more nuance and detail to give you confidence that this state is moving aggressively in the right direction. With that, happy to take any questions.
Speaker 1: (35:39)
Kathleen Ronayne, AP.
Kathleen Ronayne: (35:41)
Hi Governor, thanks for taking our question. So you showed us the projected ICU capacity for February 21st, but beyond the numbers, are you going to make public the models that the state used to reach those numbers so that experts can evaluate that? How accurate have those models been previously, and do they take into account the lifting of the stay at home order? And why aren’t we now using forecasts to let counties move from tier to tier? Thank you.
Governor Newsom: (36:12)
Right. Appreciate it, Dr. Ghaly’s already halfway up here, eager to answer your question in nuance and specificity. Doctor.
Dr. Ghaly: (36:25)
Hey Kathleen, thanks for the question. So when we went into the regional stay at home order, we did it with the eye on what our hospitals would experience based on today’s conditions. You’ve heard me before talk about today’s cases in about two weeks. About 12% get hospitalized over the next two weeks, about 12% end up in the ICUs. So those are projections. We want to not get to a place where that’s already happened. So we put the regional stay at home order at a certain point to avoid what we saw down the road four weeks from now.
Dr. Ghaly: (36:59)
Similarly, we use that same model, that same idea of projection, to evaluate what’s going on in today’s current conditions. So as we project out four weeks with today’s numbers, we can see the data that you see on your screen. This slide, that shows where we anticipate based on our models, where those different regions will be in four weeks. So we use this because we know that today’s cases, today’s conditions, so to project out those four weeks. And we’ve always said that what we did with this regional stay at home order was to really focus on ICU capacity, the ability of our healthcare workforce, our hospital partners, all of our clinical partners across the state, to be able to support patients in need of care if we saw relatively high, extremely high rate of COVID transmission.
Dr. Ghaly: (37:52)
So today, as we stand here, look at the models that include not just today’s ICU conditions, but the case rates, the R effective, which is that transmission rate or how transmissible the virus is. We look forward to these projections from where we stand today.
Dr. Ghaly: (38:10)
Now of course, this can change. That if transmission rates go up, the projections four weeks at that moment might be lower. We hope that we continue to see the decline that we’ve been witnessing over the past 10 to 14 days that give us the confidence today around what those hospital projections would be.
Dr. Ghaly: (38:31)
Again, the blueprint and the model or the calculations that we look at with the blueprint and moving tiers are actually about transmission in communities or in counties today and now. So we use that to predict, not so much to predict, but to evaluate how prepared a county is to move into a less restrictive tier. So again, projections help us look at today’s conditions and what it’s going to look like in hospitals down the road, but for the blueprint using actual transmission rates, actual test positivity to evaluate how a county can move forward with the relative reopening plan that’s stipulated in the blueprint.
Dr. Ghaly: (39:17)
We will make these data points, the model, if you will, what goes in the inputs into the projection available on the CDPH website. I believe they’re available today and you can certainly look there. And of course, if there’s additional questions, we are happy to field those today and into the future. Thank you.
Governor Newsom: (39:38)
By the way, I should note that the R effective in the state, statewide R effective is down to 0.87%, which is encouraging indeed.
Speaker 1: (39:53)
Jeremy White, Politico.
Jeremy White: (39:56)
Hey Governor, thanks for taking our questions today. We have heard a lot of frustration from elected officials who learned about this either on Twitter or by reading our news reports. I’m curious to know why communication to elected officials was not better. It seems that the Restaurant Association learned of this more than a lot of people who are getting questions from their constituents. Can you speak to that?
Governor Newsom: (40:18)
We’ve talked to a lot of folks and we’ve been working with these counties very, very directly for weeks and weeks, they’re privy to the same numbers as we are. And so we did our best, once the data came in and the question is, do we delay making a significant announcement that can help small businesses of all stripes up and down the State of California? Give some sense of optimism, not only to those businesses, but to those that want to see their kids out there in activities like competitive sports. Do we delay that for a long, protracted comprehensive outreach or do we just move forward based upon the criteria that’s been well-established and set? Based upon the trend lines that we’ve been socializing for weeks and weeks now, and data that people should be quite familiar with.
Governor Newsom: (41:06)
But many people were privy to these facts. Many people actually were very directly engaged in the adjudication of these facts across the healthcare delivery spectrum up and down the State of California in order to address some ambiguity. And I mean by that the following, there was some concern some had expressed, local health officers in particular, that before we do that, let’s make sure there were no anomalies related to MLK Day and some of the reporting over that holiday weekend. And so we worked with them to delay actually a day or so to make sure that that data was indeed accurate and folks were privy to that assurance. So we did a lot of comprehensive outreach and we’re just pleased to now move in this direction. I hope folks that are concerned that they weren’t given a heads up are also pleased with the direction the state’s now moving.
Speaker 1: (42:05)
Vicki Gonzalez, KCRA.
Vicki Gonzalez: (42:09)
Governor, thanks for taking our questions. Mine is twofold. First, I reached out to the industries that are suing the state for decisions that are being made affecting their industries and their businesses. They argue that in addition to getting businesses reopened, they also want to obtain a precedent setting and authoritative ruling that will permanently block you and health directors, and I’m saying that as a quote, “From imposing any future arbitrary and unjustified lockdowns in the future.” What is your response to that?
Vicki Gonzalez: (42:36)
The second question is vaccine related. In Placer County an individual died hours after receiving the vaccine, is the state investigating this and preliminarily, what does public health believe happened?
Governor Newsom: (42:48)
Yeah good. I’ll have Dr. Ghaly, if he’s aware of that specific case to discuss that here, just in a brief moment. But as it relates to the broader issue of effective non-pharmaceutical interventions and strategies, to use science and data to make determinations of what we should and shouldn’t do, I’m very satisfied with the approach. The vast majority of us have taken across the spectrum, states large and small, conservative run states, not just democratic run states, and countries for that matter around the world that has led to these modifications as it relates to avoiding large gatherings. God forbid, we go back to large rock concerts, et cetera, too early, or frankly five, six months ago in the midst of this pandemic when we didn’t necessarily have capacity. And we didn’t understand the complexities of potential variants moving in and didn’t necessarily have adequate PPE or ICU capacity that we were holding large events with tens of thousands of people.
Governor Newsom: (43:51)
Some folks, and it sounds like the folks that you exampled, support that, and respectfully the doctors, the experts from Dr. Fauci on down, the overwhelming majority, I mean, it’s like climate science, there’s two or 3% that disagree and you see them on certain networks. And then the rest of folks that acknowledge certain common sense as it relates to mitigation, the transmission of this pandemic. And so look, we’re going to hold to that. We’re winning, we won two more lawsuits the last few days. It’s not about that, because assuredly, we’ll win vast majority we have. And few obviously will go through the process and some have ultimately gone to the Supreme Court, including Justice Roberts himself, that squared support for one of our orders that we put out. But we feel like we’re on firm footing, and based science and based data and basic common sense in some respects as well. With that though, let’s ask Dr. Ghaly a little bit more about this case up here in Placer.
Dr. Ghaly: (45:00)
Let me begin by just sharing condolences with the individual’s loved ones who life was lost in Placer. We are aware of the case, we’re working closely with the coroner, the health officer in that county to determine the details around the case. Certainly this was an individual who had been recently vaccinated. I think also other details are complex and worth further investigation, and that’s what we’re doing now.
Dr. Ghaly: (45:26)
I think overwhelmingly though, we’ve seen so many individuals successfully and without any significant reactions, receive both the Moderna and the Pfizer vaccines. We believe through the efforts of the FDA, our own Scientific Safety Committee, who looked at all the data. That again, these are safe vaccines that we’re watching them successfully administered across the state, across the nation, across the globe. And that certainly we are very experienced with reactions and even dire consequences related to clinical interventions, including vaccines.
Dr. Ghaly: (46:07)
But we are looking at this very closely and still stand behind the overwhelming data and evidence that these vaccines are safe. As we gain additional information, not just about the Placer County situation, but other reactions across the state, across the nation, sharing that very publicly, sharing the lessons learned, I think is key to continuing to develop the confidence of our state, our public in receiving the vaccine and getting us on the other side of this pandemic.
Governor Newsom: (46:38)
And I appreciate the point Dr. Ghaly was making, as it relates to this individual case. As we get more information, obviously we pass it along, but it’s just another reminder of how deadly this pandemic has been and continues to be, either related to potential issues that are being investigated in that case, or just more broadly to the disease itself. 504 people on average losing their lives on any given day here in the State of California, 500 families torn apart because they’ve lost a loved one because of the deadliness of this pandemic.
Governor Newsom: (47:17)
And it’s just another sober reminder of why one can not be flippant and just turn on the light switch once again, and have everybody rush back to mass gatherings without any consideration of transmission, R effective issues related to the impact this disease continues to have, on not only our most vulnerable, our seniors, but those with comorbidities, preexisting conditions and other issues that could further exacerbate their health. So forgive me for belaboring that, but I think squares, I think, very much with the first part of your question as well.
Speaker 1: (47:59)
Stephanie Elam, CNN.
Stephanie Elam: (48:03)
Hi Governor, it’s Stephanie Elam from CNN to ask this basically a devil’s advocate question here. And that’s the fact that there’s been this variant, the strain that was found here in Southern California, that a few of the medical professionals I’ve spoken to think could have been behind the just astronomical rise that we saw here in Southern California.
Stephanie Elam: (48:24)
So with that, with the loosening of where we are going back to, away from the stay at home order, could that potentially be something that is of concern to open back up and having outdoor dining? So that’s one part of it. Now the devil’s advocate side is the other part of it about dining outside, some people believe because that went away, it forced more people to fraternize inside, and that led for the higher rise of cases here in Southern California. And I’m wondering if that’s factoring into the decision. So looking at both sides of the coin here, if I could get you and Dr. Ghaly to weigh in on that, I’d be most appreciative, thank you.
Governor Newsom: (49:00)
One question answers the other, the other begs the question, forgive me, but let me just go to a slide here, just on the first part of your question, the issue of the variants. Here’s what we know about variants in State of California. You have highlighted, and we appreciate that work and others have as well, what happened to Cedar Sinai and UCSF as it relates to this B1429 cases, which we’re still working out, is that a COVID variant that’s unique to California, or is it something else again? We’re still working through that. But so are we working through its virulence, we’re working through its transmissibility, we’re working to investigate more understanding, but 456 cases of that particular variant have been reported again, north and south here in the State of California.
Governor Newsom: (49:43)
As it relates to the UK variant, you can see here on the slide, a little bit of update on the numbers from San Diego, San Bernardino, the one case just 90 in all, that B117 variant that’s gotten a lot of attention that we have been able to identify. So again, working through a deeper and more nuanced and complex understanding.
Governor Newsom: (50:05)
But look, as it relates to the issue of a stay at home order, it’s just an opportunity to remind you again, stay-at-home order’s not a light switch, going back to the way things were a year plus ago. We still are now in these tiers, tiers that we believe have served us well, as it relates to modifying activity and behavior, requiring not only that when someone is dining outdoor, but there are certain conditions that need to be met as it relates to those activities as well.
Governor Newsom: (50:37)
We’re doing more to not only socialize that with the public, but also with businesses. I’ll just give you an example of what I mean by that. Just over the last weekend, we were out there with the alcohol beverage control, doing education, not just enforcement. 5,600 establishments in expectation, and obviously in concern, because some people were working outside or opening…
Governor Newsom: (51:03)
… a concern because some people were working outside or opening outside of the restrictions, but anticipation of activities beginning to resume, making sure that folks were prepared to be in compliant. And so that’s the way we’re approaching this, not naively, soberly, with our eyes wide open. And as I said in the beginning, Dr. Ghaly said this as well. This is iterative. Every single day, we make adjustments by taking a look at the facts, looking at these variables, including variants, looking at case rates, transmission rates, ICUs, hospitalizations, obviously look at positivity rates, where we are in terms of the vaccination, where they are effective is not only by county but by region, looking at ICU capacity broadly defined in terms of our mutual aid, looking at our staffing and where we are, looking at the number of waivers related to staffing, which we hope to address that very, very quickly as well to mitigate the stress in that space. And so that’s constant and never-ending feedback that goes in to making determinations in real time. None of us are ideological, and if we see things beginning to break in a direction that was not anticipated, we will make a move to address that. But with that, forgive me. Perhaps more succinctly, Dr. Ghaly can answer that question as well.
Dr. Ghaly: (52:30)
Yeah. Thanks for the question. Let me just start about the variant. I think the governor gave the details of this slide, and we are, of course, concerned about it. Anytime you get a mutated germ and mutated virus that we’re just learning about … We’re just getting more familiar with COVID, what it does, the variant creates another unknown. And we don’t know enough about it yet. We’re seeing it a little bit more and more. The only thing I can tell you about these numbers is they aren’t a true reflection of what’s out there. My guess, many people’s guess is it’s much higher than this, and we’ll be looking for it on a more continuous basis with a clear focus while we’re also investigating the two things the governor talked about.
Dr. Ghaly: (53:13)
Is this more contagious? We know that the B1429, actually the mutation is also in the binding region of that virus, so that means that we’re concerned that it attaches to the human cell a little bit more than the natural virus, the one we’ve been dealing with, and that might make it more contagious. We aren’t sure yet. We’re looking at it. Same thing with virulence. Does it create infections that are worse than the ones we’ve been seeing? Are more people hospitalized? Is it harder to control the respiratory symptoms, et cetera? So all of that is what we’re still looking at. And, of course, this plays into what the governor described, this day to day look at what’s happening with transmission, with cases across the state, region by region, county by county, frankly, community by community in so many places to understand what are the appropriate interventions that we need to imagine?
Dr. Ghaly: (54:10)
Look, I grew up and played sports my entire life, really depended on trying to understand my opponent. We have an opponent we’ve never seen before. We have no game film on COVID-19. We don’t know what it’s going to do, so we need to constantly be watching the plays of the day to understand what’s going to come tomorrow, and that’s what we do. Every local health officer does that. We do that here at the state to understand what are the appropriate interventions in the future? A mutation, a variant creates a whole nother sort of situation that we have to try to understand.
Dr. Ghaly: (54:45)
So I know we always want to try to forecast where we’re going. As we understand that, we do give as much information as we can, but we’re always looking for how this sneaky virus is going to throw us a curve ball in a way and to decide what the right interventions are. And to date, we’ve used the blueprint, we’ve used various interventions like the regional stay at home order to manage certain phases of our response statewide, and we will always be looking to use tools that get us safely through this as we work to get the vaccine aggressively out into our communities, getting it hopefully more and more from the federal government and then working exactly how the governor’s shared today with our county partners, our other healthcare partners to make sure Californians get vaccinated as soon as possible.
Speaker 2: (55:45)
Alex Michelson, Fox 11.
Alex Michaelson: (55:48)
Thank you, Governor. First, an informational question about the My Turn app. Is that something that people in Los Angeles and San Diego counties can download now in the app store or Google play? How does somebody get that? And secondly, a broader question just to give you a chance to respond to critics, because you know the critics are saying this online, that this decision today comes amidst a recall campaign, comes amidst lawsuits, and they say that the timing on this is arbitrary and convenient based off of that. I want to give you a chance to respond to people that are saying that.
Governor Newsom: (56:23)
Yeah, that’s just complete utter nonsense, so let’s just dispense with that. Fundamental foundationally nonsense, so that’s number one. Number two, take a look at the website. If you Google … Forgive me. Bing, whatever your … Yahoo. If you look up, go online to My Turn, you’ll find “My Turn COVID” may be the first thing that prompts up. You can learn more about this on the covid19.ca.gov website, but “My Turn COVID,” should you. Learn more about that, get that information. LA should be promoting it themselves as well as San Diego beginning to promote this pilot project. Started about a week ago down in LA, later in the week in San Diego.
Governor Newsom: (57:12)
And so we’ll be promoting it a lot more as we work some of these bells and whistles, the NDN issues, and we make sure that we’re really ready for 40 million people to seek and source that information from that site. But we’re very encouraged by it, got an incredible team, incredible partnership with Salesforce, Accenture, and Scheduler, which is one of the more interesting startup companies here in the state of California. And so we’re really encouraged by the progress and very grateful that LA County and San Diego County were willing to work with us on this pilot.
Speaker 2: (57:50)
Katie Orr, KQED.
Katie Orr: (57:53)
Hi, Governor. Thanks for taking our question. You’ve always said that early education and childcare providers are a priority for your administration, so why then have the Childcare Providers Union, it’s been saying that your administration will not negotiate with them on COVID-19 related issues, like increased money for PPE. They have to pay for all that mostly out of their own pocket. Why won’t you come to the table with them on that?
Governor Newsom: (58:20)
Well, first of all, thank you for acknowledging not just what we said, but let me, may I, for what we’ve done more than any administration in modern history to invest in ECE, early childhood education, to put out a blueprint, first blueprint of its type in state history, a master plan not just for higher education, but a master plan for early education, which we just did. Something I promoted, promised, we got done recently, and we also made a down payment based upon that blueprint in the budget that I just submitted to the legislature. There are a number of extraordinary legislative leaders that deserve credit that we’re also working hand in glove with to advance that cause. Our goal is mindful always not just have more access, more slots, but quality, and that’s foundational.
Governor Newsom: (59:13)
That’s why I was very pleased, after efforts in the past from previous administration, to look at the issue of quality, ratios, compensation, support that I signed a bill that I promoted as well on collective bargaining. That actually set the table that you’re referring to. So with all of that as a predicate and foundation, we are in that deliberative process. I’m very familiar as a former mayor with these memorandums of understanding and the goals and desires to advance the collective bargaining cause. This is a startup operation. We’re doing something that’s never been done in this space before, and we are working collaboratively together, and we’ve got work to do. I’m very familiar with the concerns that you raise. In fact, some leaders in the union that hopes to represent these workers reached out directly as well, and we’ve been in contact.
Governor Newsom: (01:00:10)
So we’re confident that we’ll work through these issues. I also … Forgive me, take the time to acknowledge last year we had a shortfall in this state in our public employee unions across the spectrum. We worked through our differences. We had some good days and we had some bad days. We had some days where there’s misunderstanding and some stress, but we worked through all those differences as part of the give and take of the collective bargaining process, setting that table literally, figuratively, and we were able to land where we landed last year. That inured to the benefit of early childhood education, inured to the benefit of childcare because we didn’t see big cuts in those spaces, despite the budget shortfalls last year, because our public employee units helped step up, step in protecting those young folks and making sure the caregivers were supported as well. So it’s the spirit that we enter into these negotiations, and that spirit I’m confident will get us across the line and get a good contract for everybody.
Speaker 2: (01:01:12)
Final question. Jackie Botts, Cal Matters.
Jackie Botts: (01:01:16)
Governor, I have two questions about what California is doing to protect farm workers right now. You’ve mentioned Housing for Harvest a few times as this month during your budget announcement, but as we’ve reported, not many farm workers have taken advantage of the rooms. As of January 11th, PDFA told me that just 107 reservations have been made, and of course the estimate’s that the number of farm workers who have tested positive since Housing for the Harvest was announced is in the tens of thousands. So we reported that there were some big barriers to accessing this program, including test or medical referral requirements, and also the fact that a lot of people just don’t trust it or are afraid of separating from their families. Advocates and farm workers told us that the state-funded cash assistance to help farm workers isolate at home would be more helpful.
Jackie Botts: (01:02:03)
So I’m wondering, my first question is given the low numbers, are you considering any changes to the program? My second question’s about getting back to the farm workers. For the same reasons that I just listed, farm workers will experience barriers to access way more than your average 65-plus-year-old. So I’m wondering what is your plan going forward to make sure that essential farm workers who have been hit so hard don’t get crowded to the end of these initial priority tiers that have gotten much bigger, even as the vaccine remains scarce.
Governor Newsom: (01:02:35)
Let me take this slide and once again to bring it back up just to reinforce, and I think it answers the latter part of your question. We are prioritizing. So your question was around a frame, “get lost in tiers.” We are keeping our farm workers, our agricultural workers in that top tier. 65 and over, healthcare workers, continue to prioritize first responders, continue to prioritize their hundreds of farm workers just today that I know are being vaccinated as an example in Fresno County and our food workers. So that’s a priority, along with our teachers and school staff. So that is firm in terms of our prioritization.
Governor Newsom: (01:03:16)
As it relates to the deeper issues, here’s a great opportunity. I’m sort of smiling when you asked the question, because last week I asked my team to put together an entire list of all the supports that we have provided farm workers since the beginning of this pandemic and what we’re proposing to do that will directly and indirectly impact farm workers in next year’s budget. We actually have that document. In the interest of time, I’m going to make sure we provide that to you. If you’re not getting in the next couple of minutes, you’ll certainly be getting it in the next few hours.
Governor Newsom: (01:03:47)
But we have that list of details that show all the supports from sick leave, workers’ comp, the issues associated with those cash grants that we provided no other state at the time had considered, and all the work we’ve done with philanthropy and the partnerships we’ve created with farm growers, not just farm workers as it relates to the growers themselves rather, and the partnership that you referenced on the housing and some of the issues that are unique in the Central Valley versus the Central Coast. Forgive me for belaboring this, but we’ll have a memo out shortly. Accordingly, we will shortly tomorrow have Dr. Ghaly back up and in front of all of you to update, more specific terms, the work on vaccines and how we will create more clarity, more ease in terms of criteria to allow faster throughput and build on the work that’s been done in the last number of weeks to get us back where all of you deserve as it relates to the issue as well, those tiers, which is so fundamental.
Governor Newsom: (01:04:47)
As a reminder, the stay-at-home orders not lifted where everyone is going back to where we were January 26th last year. It’s bringing us back to where we were just a few months ago, and less as it relates to this blueprint for a safer reopening that’s well-established, well understood, and we hope will be well-received. As it relates, we move in to this challenging period, but a period nonetheless where we truly do see the light at the end of the tunnel. So I want to thank Dr. Ghaly, the health team, data-driven, scientifically based, not arbitrary, and I want to acknowledge their hard work over the last many months, but in particular last few weeks as we’ve worked hard to get to this point. Look forward to hearing from him tomorrow, as I hope all of you do as well. Take care, everybody.