Aug 11, 2021
California Gov. Gavin Newsom Press Conference Transcript: Vaccine, Testing Mandate for Teachers
California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a COVID-19 vaccine and testing mandate for school teachers and staff during a briefing on August 11. Read the transcript of the press conference here.
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Gov. Gavin Newsom: (00:04)
Not many congresswomen would quote Marvin Gaye. So we appreciate you for that as well. Appreciate all of you for taking the time to be here. Mayor Schaaf, thank you. It’s always wonderful to be back in your backyard. To all of the esteemed leaders behind me, thank you for your stewardship. Thank you for your devotion to the cause that unites us and that’s the essential importance we place on in-person instruction. And the work that we have done in this state that I would argue is second to no other state in this country to make sure we do that safely and responsibly. This is a state that very proudly was among the first states in the country to mandate mask wearing in public education system before the school year, before the CDC aligned with that standard, before the Academy of Pediatrics aligned with that strategy. And before the controversies that have subsequently ensued. We followed that up by looking more broadly at ways we can improve our efforts here in the state to keep people safe.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (01:10)
And the impacts that the community spread, particularly with the Delta we’re having in terms of our capacity to sustainably keep our schools open by mandating for state and the country to mandate all health workers receive a vaccination. The state of California, trying to lead by example, also asserted that we need to do more and do better by becoming the first state in the country to require a vaccine mandate or at least verification and or a testing requirement. We’re now following up today to align our schools strategy to the state strategy and become the first state in the country to require that all of our staff, not just teachers, credentialed staff, para educators, custodial staff, the bus drivers, folks that are critical to supporting the entire school ecosystem also submit a verification of vaccination and or submit to weekly testing. We think this is the right thing to do.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (02:16)
And we think this is a sustainable way to keeping our schools open and to address the number one anxiety that parents like myself have. I have four young children, and that is knowing that the schools are doing everything in their power to keep our kids safe, to keep our kids healthy. And that’s what we’re doing here in the state of California. Now we’re doing that aided by an unprecedented amount of money that we’re investing in our public education system, $124 billion investment this year. 123.9 to be exact. We’re creating a brand new grade this year, TK, for all. Will be fully implemented over the next few years but we initiated that this year. We are supporting an effort that’s long been promoted in this state, but it’s never been achieved. That’s after school for all California school children. Fully implementing that with a commitment of $5 billion in the next five years to advance that cause.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (03:15)
We are doing more for the health, not just physical health of our kids, but the mental health of our kids. Zero to 25, $4.3 billion the state is investing to support the screening and services and supports to address the critical issue of mental health for all of our children here in the state of California. One and a half billion dollars for special needs kids. I can go down a list of abundance. The state has never been more resourced in terms of supporting the academic and social emotional needs of our children. And so today we feel is a responsible step in the door action to continue to maintain that stewardship and that focus on getting to where we all want go. And that’s extinguishing this virus once and for all. While we’re proud of the fact that California has among the highest vaccination rates in America, now 77.5% of all eligible Californians have received at least one dose.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (04:19)
It’s not good enough. We have more work to do. And so there’s no substitute for vaccinations except those non pharmaceutical interventions we’ve all come to know well, and that’s continued testing, contact tracing which we’re partnering with counties like Alameda County and districts like this, and continue to do what we can and to encourage people to wear face coverings, particularly in settings indoors. And so that will be the charge. That’s the approach we’re taking here in California. It’s science-based, it’s based upon argument, evidence. It’s based upon data and it’s based upon the vaccine challenge that we all face now in this state and our nation for that matter around the world of trying to address this latest mutation, the Delta mutation in our state. So that’s the announcement today.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (05:17)
I want to thank all our partners from Linda and her team at the state. I want to thank the union partners. Mr. Brown, thank you for your efforts to the county, the city superintendents, to the mayor. We believe this will be well received. Not everybody will be overwhelmed by this, but we think will be well received because it’s the right thing to do to keep our most precious resource healthy and safe, our children here in this state. So with that, we’ll just jump right in. I know you’re eager to ask questions and of course, all of us are here to help support and answer and respond.
Ali Tadayon: (05:59)
Hi, this is Ali Tadayon with EdSource and I was going to ask, it was only a few weeks ago when the requirement for state employees was announced. What happened between then and now to warrant this new requirement? Don’t you think you’re cutting it a little close to the start of school.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (06:17)
I think we’re doing the right thing. And I’m very grateful that the state took leadership by requiring all state employees, about 246,000 state employees. We appreciate what was followed up after that announcement. So many cities, including Oakland, followed suit all up and down the state of California, aligning with those state requirements. And then we saw businesses do the same. You saw some of the nation’s largest private companies from Google, Facebook, Uber, Lyft and Disney follow suit. We have been working with our partners and our education system, 1,050 plus school districts. We’re trying to support the needs of 6.1 million public school kids.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (06:59)
And we have been engaged to address the concerns and anxiety around reopening our schools. I was down in San Bernardino last week meeting with leaders there as we reopened that school. A school, by the way, that didn’t reopen last year. They were an exception. But it was an example of a school that did everything in their power or district rather to prepare for this year. But also we talked about vaccines. We had an opportunity to talk beyond masks and it initiated a series of conversations that led to this moment in this first in the nation announcement we’re making today.
Jill Tucker: (07:38)
Jill Tucker from the San Francisco Chronicle. In some districts where they’ve already adopted this, including San Francisco and Oakland last night, there’s been some pushback from parents and teachers saying it doesn’t go far enough because it’s a choice between the vaccine or getting tested once a week. Did you consider making this a more restrictive mandate that would have limited exemptions and require more teachers and educators and staff in schools to get vaccinated?
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (08:11)
We think this will do exactly what it is intended to do and that’s to encourage people to get vaccinated. It’s what’s happened at the state level, it’s what happened in terms of the inspiration for private sector to follow suit. But I’ve said this from day one, I mean, going back 18 months, we’re open argument, interested in evidence. We don’t stand still. We maintain a flexible mindset about what’s happening on the ground, the epidemiology, the nature of these variants. And by the way, Delta variant’s not the only variant that we’re monitoring. We have over a dozen variants and mutations that we have been battling against over the course of the last many months here in the state of California.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (08:51)
Mindful, there’ll be more on the horizon. And on the consequence of that, we always maintain a willingness to consider next steps. But this is, we believe, the next appropriate step. It’s at scale. We appreciate Oakland. Thank you for moving last night. We appreciate Long Beach, appreciate LA, San Francisco. But there are a thousand plus other schools and districts in this state or rather districts in the state that we want to courage along. And we believe that this will begin a process of significantly increasing vaccination rates across the spectrum and across the state.
Victoria Colliver: (09:28)
Hi, Victoria Colliver with POLITICO. So governor, can you tell us more about how this will be enforced? Will teachers be fired if they fail to comply?
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (09:37)
Well, it’s the same way. All the rules and regulations within the school system are enforced. We have an ed code and there’s progressive sanctions, and we don’t distinguish this versus all the other rules and requirements. And so that role book, that playbook is well-defined in the state and we’re not concerned about that. We think we have enlightened leaders, people that recognize what’s at stake, their own health, the health and safety of the children that they’re serving. That’s their mission. That’s our mandate. And we’re confident that we’ll see compliance.
Sophia Bollag: (10:10)
Hi, governor. Sophia Bollag here from The Sacramento Bee. I understand that the announcement today only applies to teachers and staff. But if the vaccine does receive FDA approval, would you support requiring students to get vaccinated in order to attend school?
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (10:23)
This is the announcement we’re making today. The first to do a mask requirement on public ed schools, among the first states. Certainly among the first to move in this direction. We’ll consider all options in the future. Forgive the redundancy of that response. I’ve maintained that for 18 months on the basis of the nature and change. There’s nothing static about this virus. The one thing we have been from day one is humbled by it. And as a consequences of that, with that humility comes the responsibility to be vigil. And vigilance demands considerations and reconsiderations. And as a consequence, we’ll consider that if necessary, but we believe this is a meaningful first step.
Laura Anthony: (11:12)
Governor, Laura Anthony with ABC7, San Francisco. Two days ago, we met underneath the overpass in Berkeley and I asked specifically about mandates for vaccines for teachers and you said that you would leave that to the individual districts, the thousand plus, and it was bargainable. I know you’re not calling this a mandate, first of all. Secondly, what changed?
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (11:33)
Well, there are a lot of things we consider that I don’t preview as we’re considering them. And forgive me, process, trying to work to develop trust among our partners, we’ve been discussing this for some time. We want to develop a cadence of engagement and consideration. You got me cleaning up a homeless encampment in Berkeley, and that was the best response at the moment. I will assure you there’s many things we’re considering broadly in this state to keep people safe and protected. And I anticipate subsequent announcements over the course of weeks and over the course of the next few months in order to advance our efforts to extinguish this virus once and for all. But we engaged in robust conversations over the weekend. Over the course of the last few days, we were able to land very confidently yesterday. And today we are formalizing this announcement.
Melissa Colorado: (12:34)
Good morning, governor. I’m Melissa Colorado with NBC Bay Area News. More of a localized question here to Oakland, we’ve had a surge in homicides, armed robberies. I’m sure you heard what happened to former Senator Barbara Boxer recently. And just yesterday, the president of the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce said he sent a letter to your office and he’s asking you to declare a state of emergency here in Oakland and to deploy CHP officers to help OPD. And he’s also asking for more state investigators. So my question to you is, are you going to deploy CHP officers here to Oakland and declare a state of emergency?
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (13:09)
Well, we have five task forces, active task forces, with the CHP, Department of Justice and the county and local authorities. The mayor and I just had a conversation about a more formal request she has made of my office. And I told her she can count on that request being received. We’re going to do more to help support not only those existing task forces, retail theft task force, the regional vehicle theft task force, major crimes task force. We’ll continue to provide other resources beyond personnel and CHP. We have canine support. We have investigative support. But we have also done a number of things that I don’t know have gotten the attention they deserve. One does not need to declare a state of emergency to assert the acuity of a crisis that needs to be addressed head on. And that’s exactly what we did in the budget this year.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (14:05)
$200 million for evidence-based street outreach through a program called CalVet. Last year, we invested 9 million. This year, we’re putting $200 million in grants to support efforts, evidence-based efforts to address the issue of crime and violence in our streets. We did something very significant particularly to the Asian community. And this is something point of personal pride for me. Having grown up in San Francisco with one of the largest Asian populations in America and having a privilege of being its mayor. Also, having been very, very aggressive in my condemnation of the racialized speech the previous administration and the ongoing issues of division and divisiveness in this country, particularly the anti Asian rhetoric that we continue to hear. We put $165 million up specifically for grants to address the issue of Asian hate in the state. That’s unprecedented in California’s history. We mean business on that.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (15:06)
So we’re going to hold folks accountable, continue to partner with local government. I’m grateful for the mayor’s leadership and her assertiveness in terms of demanding more support from the state, which she will receive. But we haven’t waited around. Those dollars are now available. They were passed where the urgency in the budget. And by the way, they’re supplemented with an additional, and this is important, $50 million for security grants for cultural institutions. Those dollars are also available today to secure sites physically and or with human resources to provide more support for cultural institutions that also have been subject to hate. And so all of those supports are new. All those supports are available and additional law enforcement support will be forthcoming into Oakland.
Kathy Novak: (15:55)
Governor, Kathy Novak from KCBS Radio. And I’m told I’m the last question. A follow-up to what Jill asked in terms of possible next steps for removing the testing option for teachers and just requiring vaccinations. Do you have a threshold in mind for how many school staff would need to be vaccinated before you remove that testing option?
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (16:19)
I want to give this a chance. We’re just announcing this seconds ago. So let’s give this an opportunity to work. Give me at least 24 hours, maybe more than that. A few weeks and then we’ll consider subsequent steps. Look, the vast majority over… Mr. Brown can make this point himself, overwhelming majority of our teachers have been vaccinated, overwhelming majority, not everybody. But we need to get the other staff, support staff is vaccinated as well with some urgency. And we’ll see how that processes. We put a timeline, want to give people time. I mean, we’re just opening up the schools. I was talking to the principal, I mean, this place looks spectacular. I love the first week of school. But she’s got her hands full just taking care of those little ones inside and keeping the bathrooms clean and operational.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (17:09)
And now we’re requiring this new testing verification and she’s now wondering how she sets up the testing protocols. And we need to give her a little bit of space, a little bit of support. We have safe schools teams and technical assistant teams that Linda and Brooks and the school board are providing. We had remarkable support from Congresswoman Lee with the federal dollars that came in. $27 billion came in the state to help advance our efforts and the ventilation and other things that Mr. Brown were referencing. But we’ll monitor this closely. We’ll see how successful this effort is. Again, first in the nation and consider if FDA does approve next steps moving beyond the emergency use authorization to formal authorization, where we land on that. I continue to remind people, in closing, the importance, the imperative. If we want to end this pandemic and disease, we can do it in a month.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: (18:05)
That’s a choice. This disease is now a choice. The one thing that could end this pandemic once and for all is available in abundance to everybody that wants it, regardless of your ability to pay, regardless of your immigration status, it’s available today. And that’s a vaccine. It’ll not only save your lives, but allow us to sustainably keep our kids back in in-person instruction, keep our economy moving, support our small businesses. I don’t know if there’s more damn patriotic thing you can do on behalf of not only yourself, your community, but your fellow Americans than getting vaccinated and encourage everybody to take advantage of that. What I would argue responsibility, not just opportunity that is available in abundance here in our state. Thank you all very much for the privilege of your time. And thank you everybody for helping get us to where we are today with this [inaudible 00:18:59