Aug 14, 2020
California Governor Gavin Newsom August 14 Press Conference Transcript
Gov. Newsom: (03:52)
Well good afternoon everybody. Today we wanted to talk a little bit with more detail and specificity about the issue of schools, the reopening of our schools. I come at this not academically, not as governor, but as a parent of four young children, different ages, different cohorts, different situations, [inaudible 00:04:15] respect different schools. We’re having conversations that I know millions of Americans, millions of Californians in particular are having. These conversations are trying, these conversations can at times be confusing. This is a challenging moment for all of us, particularly parents and particularly those that are responsible for over six million of our kids in our public education system.
Gov. Newsom: (04:40)
So I want to talk about where we are and what our progress to date looks like, lessons we learned from the spring session. Recognition that good enough never is, that everything we’re putting out here today, we recognize requires even more work, more focus, more energy, and more effort and so I want to just begin with that as a preamble of deep recognition of the anxiety, deep recognition of the role that we all play on making this school year modified as it will be as successful as we possibly can, and I also am very mindful that every single child is unique, every single child is special, every single child has a unique expression and that means that no two of us learn the same and as a consequence this conversation we’ll have here today, a conversation where we’re going to invite in a number of educational leaders to participate in this conversation means something differently for each and every person watching and I’m very, very cognizant of that and I recognize that our role, our responsibility is to do everything we can to tailor and individualize to the unique needs of families and individuals that we’re here to serve. Let me begin with a predicate, not just a preamble and that is safety is the foundational first approach that we look at, the lens to which we advance all of our decision making. Safety for our students and safety for those responsible for educating and supporting our students. Clearly our teachers but also we cannot forget our bus drivers, we can’t forget our janitors, we can’t forget all of the incredible support staff that we also are entrusted to support and protect to keep healthy.
Gov. Newsom: (06:35)
One of the things we did a couple of months back and in recognition that we needed to have time to prepare in terms of focusing on preparing the physical environment because again, our commitment, our default longterm is in-person instruction, the social emotional benefits of in-person instruction are self-evident, the need to develop relationships, develop connections, to be inspired by a teacher or a magical moment that changes the trajectory of one’s life. It is suboptimal to have that experience virtually. That is something I believe overwhelmingly is accepted and recognized. So we are in a suboptimal environment but with expectation and anticipation that we will go back to the environment that we are more familiar with. We wanted to make sure that our schools had the chance to be prepared in that respect to have the procurement of PPE, face shields, face covers, thermometers, hand sanitizers and the like and I just want to remind you that the state itself in anticipation of reopening our schools to in-person instruction has provided already millions and millions of masks and face shields, tens and thousands of thermometers and a million and a half gallons of hand sanitizer.
Gov. Newsom: (08:04)
I recognize that’s not enough and I’ll talk in a moment of what we were successfully able to do with the budget to provide an unprecedented amount of resources, to supplement what the state has already provided, but this is important because I want folks to know the state’s commitment to provide at no cost to the districts these supplies in anticipation of being able to move in the direction all of us want to move.
Gov. Newsom: (08:32)
That said, we are anticipating based upon the current analysis, and we’ll be coming out Monday with more detailed information as it relates to county by county watch list which is foundational. We’ll talk more about that in a few moments as well, but we estimate at this moment at least over 90% of our students, and you can argue it’s closer to 95, 97% of our students, are likely to start the school year with distance learning and that’s what we’re preparing for, that’s what we’re disproportionately focused on, and that school year has already begun for many. Yesterday, today, next week, large cohort, week after. So the school year is upon us and we are now just beginning this journey together on a more robust approach to distance learning in this state.
Gov. Newsom: (09:27)
We made this point that schools may be closed and I made this point in the past, but class is still in session, that we are committed, we are accountable to continuing to ensure that not only are we preparing our teachers to be great teachers in a very constrained and difficult environment, preparing our students to be at their best, but that we are preparing a broad strategy, recognize that we still have a lot of gaps and a lot of inequities that need to be addressed and so we will get to some of the details of what we’re planning to do in that space in a moment but I want you to know that is top of mind and we’re very cognizant of our responsibility and those challenges.
Gov. Newsom: (10:11)
Accordingly we’ve been guided over the course of the last many months by a lot of outreach. I want to thank and he’ll be on the phone in a moment, our superintendent of public education, the work CDE, California Department of Education has done in terms of their outreach, formal, informal, surveys that they’ve put out, surveys that the state has put out, other organizations, non-profits, NGOs have put out. Really trying to get a sense of where school districts are, where parents are, and where our workforce believes we need to go as it relates to supporting our efforts on distance learning. You’ll just see three specific surveys on this slide that represent different times and different questions related to our preparedness. You’ll see that first comment or rather first stat, 96.1% of school districts that reported, they were at least starting to provide technology for students for distance learning. This was at the end, this specifically was a survey from May 15 to the end of the school year where we were all rushing to provide for distance learning but you can see the vast majority, overwhelming majority of districts were moving in that direction and we want to carry that momentum and all of the challenges related to closing of that school year in spring session, the lessons learned. Want to carry some of that momentum into the fall session.
Gov. Newsom: (11:36)
91% of parents in another survey, this was done in late July, say that they have the technology needed for distance learning. Now I recognize you get under those numbers, what does that mean? One laptop for four members of the family? That’s not adequate, download speeds, that may not be top of class. All of those things are self-evident in terms of our concerns, but you get a sense of where parents at least felt they were as it relates to just basic technology needs for distance learning.
Gov. Newsom: (12:06)
When you get to the issue of confidence, when you get the issue of more nuance, you can see a smaller number of people, districts, students and families feel that they have ultimately the kind of capacity, understanding, ability, to utilize this technology in a meaningful and more robust manner and so we talk in terms of bridging the digital divide. It’s not just about WiFi hotspots and not just about what you plug those virtual hotspots into. It’s also about something much richer, much deeper.
Gov. Newsom: (12:40)
That said, we put out new requirements. Not every state did this, in fact I would argue the vast majority based upon our analysis of states have not done this but California did. We put out expectations, guide rails, with real money, and I’ll get to the money in a moment, with our expectations, for our statewide requirements, as it relates to what distance learning would look like.
Gov. Newsom: (13:03)
The reason we were able to do that is we had enlightened leadership in the legislature that was committed to that cause. Obviously the great support the superintendent of public education and Linda Darling-Hammond, the head of the school board you’ll hear from in a moment as well, but we were able to have clarity in terms of our conviction that we believe that distance learning was likely to happen based upon community spread of COVID-19 and the background rates, and so we had time to really be deliberative, time to work with the legislature on protocols, processes, on budget language to really condition requirements with funding. So it’s really about local flexibility at the end of the day, but with real accountability in terms of minimum requirements. Those include access to more devices for those that don’t have them, more connectivity, quality connectivity, daily interaction. Look, as I said, digital or rather distance learning is suboptimal. We just don’t want people to take their lectures and just videotape them and then provide them online. By the way, just go to YouTube and pretty much get that in every subject matter that’s ever been debated since the beginning of mankind.
Gov. Newsom: (14:15)
This has to be a much more interactive process where we want to bring our students into the screen truly engaged, peer to peer, not just with the interaction of a teacher and so we want a more dynamic engagement to the extent possible through distance learning and we want as much individualized learning, particularly for students of special needs which is foundational, as much as we can, and that’s an area of obvious concern and I’m going to talk about more on that in a moment.
Gov. Newsom: (14:47)
We want challenging assignments. We don’t want just people to dial this in and we want to recognize the diversity of this state, children as well as parents that are not necessarily as proficient in English so ESL learners, English second language learners and obviously by meeting the needs of those with special challenges. That said, we have provided to date the access to at least devices in hotspots. I’ve talked on multiple occasions in the past, I want to thank Tony Thurmond and his Digital Divide Task Force that he put together and Linda Darling-Hammond, I want to thank my wife, First Partner, Jennifer, for her outstanding work, making phone calls. Trust me, I was standing next to her on many of those cases, emails on Sunday morning trying to get philanthropy in individuals as well as companies to provide devices in WiFi hotspots. I think you’ve seen those numbers, 73,000 devices we were able to procure over 100,000 free WiFi hotspots throughout the state of California.
Gov. Newsom: (15:53)
We subsequently worked with California Public Utilities Commission and they’ve made available an additional 87,000 WiFi hotspots. Part of our budget effort and they set aside tens of millions of dollars in this space to help supplement support for bridging that divide for our schools. The issue though of digital divide can’t not be just distilled in simple numbers of devices and WiFi hotspots. We really need to provide an abundance of resources. I know abundance means something to some people, others say, “Well it’s a scarcity of resource,” but I will say I’m proud, this state took a lot of the CARES Act funding, a lot of the federal dollars for this pandemic. Many other states used that money for general fund purposes, appropriately and understandably, we used a disproportionate amount of that federal stimulus dollars and we gave it to our education system this year for learning loss focused on equity, focused on the lens of addressing the lessons we learned in spring and anticipation we may need to bring those lessons in closing that divide into the fall session. $5.3 billion, real discretion, real capacity to procure more PPE, to provide more deep sanitation, to supplement supports to individualized learning to the extent possible, speech therapy and other supports for those with special needs and of course to provide more WiFi hotspots, to provide more direct supports [inaudible 00:17:27] to the extent possible and preferable to provide obviously more Chromebooks and the like.
Gov. Newsom: (17:33)
100% of the eligible schools in California have not only been made aware of those resources, 100% have applied for those resources before the first deadline, and they’re receiving those funds. I want to encourage you, we have the ability now with our covid19.ca.gov website, encourage you to go to the covid19.ca.gov website, covid19.ca.gov, go to the site and you can learn to see exactly what your school district, what their allocation was of that $5.3 billion. You can see here on this slide $450 million went to L.A. Unified School District, Fresno receiving about $87 million, Elk $4 million. These are just examples of money being distributed, available, ready, with flexibility focused on the issue of learning loss.
Gov. Newsom: (18:32)
Again, equity is the word that we are focused on and fully resolved and committed to advancing. When you look at the distribution of funds, if you allocate them equally, you are not allocating them equitably and as a consequence of that, we had a very robust debate with the legislature on how we thought best to utilize the CARES Act funds. 81% of those funds we landed on that number, we wanted to prioritize for this cohort of individuals, low income students, students with disabilities, foster youth, homeless students and those English Language Learners. I’m very proud of the work we did with the legislature and with the Superintendent of Public Education, Linda Darling-Hammond’s outstanding work to guide us in this direction and as has been said many times publicly and privately, Brentwood is very different than Inglewood, and as a consequence, the needs are greater in Inglewood and as a consequence of that, we want to provide additional flexibility of resource to address those needs to do what we can to address these disparities and gaps that pre-date COVID but have now been exposed in a different scale since this pandemic and so that’s the framework of focus.
Gov. Newsom: (19:51)
Equity lens, robust funding to address learning loss despite other budgetary concerns. Flexibility that is needed for districts, recognizing localism ultimately is the clarion call as it relates to education in this state. It’s enshrined in the state constitution, local control over a thousand school districts in this state, so it truly is bottom-up, but bottom-up this year with guardrails and real money and real expectations in terms of the supports that we expect to see.
Gov. Newsom: (20:29)
With that, I want to just express my deep gratitude for the support we have received as a state through his leadership, it has been demonstrable throughout this pandemic, Tony Thurmond has been not only an advocate in his role as Superintendent of Public Instruction in the state of California but he is an incredible partner to the state and state agencies, and his ability to convene people, his ability to work with local districts and do the work that has taskforce has done including
Gov. Newsom: (21:03)
[inaudible 00:21:00] and do the work that his taskforce has done including key legislative leaders. I want to thank them as well for their support and participation has helped us not only procure and identify the capacity in terms of philanthropy, and more devices, and wifi hotspots, but to do something else and he can, I hope talk to this, but please Tony talk, he’s on the phone, about more broadly, your feelings about where we are and where we’re going together. But I did want to just acknowledge your work. And I pointed this out. Tony, you may not be able to see this on a slide, the work you did with Apple, T-Mobile, Office Depot, we put out Staples, they all deserve credit, Edison, that have set aside hundreds of thousands of devices for California schools. That may not seem that interesting or even impressive, but there’s a global demand for supplies, for Chromebooks, and for equipment for education. I don’t want to say it’s equivalent to the PPE stress that we all had early on as relates to supplies, but supplies are constrained and they are not as abundant as they once were, and I just want to thank the superintendent for working with these companies to set aside and prioritize the access of quite literally hundreds thousands of these devices for our school kids. It’s a perfect example of something that may not have gotten a lot of attention, but was a lot of work. And he led that effort as well as making a point that we followed up on, it’s this last point on this bullet and Tony I’ll turn over to you right after this. And that is to see if we can leverage our purchasing power outside of just the school districts, working with CDE, California Department of Education, but how about the state coming in with all our purchasing power and doing a device state-negotiated master contract so we can bring down the cost again, buy at scale, more competitive capacity to get lower costs. That’s exactly what we’re doing.
Gov. Newsom: (23:07)
Thank you Tony Thurmond and Mr. Superintendent, please, if you could just add your voice to all of these efforts.
Tony Thurmond: (23:14)
Thank you Mr. Governor, thank you for your leadership. It’s an honor to work with you and the legislature, and the State Board of Education on doing the things that we need to do, that in my estimation amount to the most difficult circumstances that we will probably encounter in our lifetime. It is just that. It is a pandemic of worldwide proportion and its impacts on California and our nation are just significant. But I’m grateful that we live in a state that is led by a Governor and a legislature that have made $5.3 billion available to support the needs of distance learning. Let’s face it. 97% of our schools or so are in distance learning at least to start, as a way of being safe until we know if the conditions will change to allow what we know all of our students need, in person instruction. But until we get there, we’re opening distance learning, we approach this with safety.
Tony Thurmond: (24:14)
It is so important to have had those resources, that $5.3 billion is just incredible. Thank you, Mr. Governor, thank you to the members of the legislature. Like the Governor said, we approach this in our work, but we also approach this as parents. I’m also a parent of California students. I just want to acknowledge first how difficult this is right now. And in spite of how difficult it is, everyone is leaning in. I mentioned our Governor and legislative partners. I want to acknowledge students and parents, teachers, principals, and superintendents. Everyone is just leaning in to figure out how to make this happen. One thing that I’ve noted is that for every piece of guidance that any of us puts out, the pandemic is constantly changing and we’ve all had to be constantly changing.
Tony Thurmond: (25:03)
The Governor does these press conferences on a regular, he’s always giving you updates. We try to provide updates to the field on a regular basis, but our parents and students and educators are constantly adapting. The beginning of school is always a time that’s both exciting and filled with anxiety. I would say that that’s amounted to a higher level now because so much has gone into preparation for months, we’ve all been providing guidance, but the pandemic changes so then we have to change the guidance. So things are just moving. I just want to acknowledge that. This is a difficult the environment to work in, but I want to apply the resolve and the resilience of everyone, students, parents, educators, administrators, all leaning in together. Our county superintendents are so important to this process, they convene regular meetings of all of our 1000 school districts.
Tony Thurmond: (25:53)
It has taken just that entire partnership to get where we are. And where are we? Schools have opened in some districts and many are poised to open in just a few days. In many cases the resources are there and in some cases we’re still scrambling to get resources together, but we’re all leaning in because we recognized that we can do more together. On the issue of devices, as the Governor points out is critical when we prefer to be in an environment where students have computing devices and connectivity. We’ve worked with Apple and T-Mobile to connect them directly to districts that are still looking for devices. For those districts we want to remind you that you can use your Learning Loss Mitigation Funds to purchase those computing devices at a discounted rate. These devices are internet-connected, and they also can work across all platforms regardless of whatever platform the district uses.
Tony Thurmond: (26:45)
As the Governor’s pointed out, there is a run on supply worldwide. There just aren’t enough computing devices, but Apple and T-mobile have prioritized devices, Staples and Office Depot have prioritized the devices for our schools. Our team, Mary Nicely in our office has really worked with our districts and our school associations to identify where the need is. A number of companies have come forward. I want to acknowledge PG&E they’re making a contribution to support some school districts that are in areas that have been underserved and need computing devices. We’ll have more information to announce there. We know that there’s been a digital divide, but our effort is to provide technology during the pandemic and to use the digital divide taskforce to once and for all close the digital divide. We’re focused on the short-term needs but also keeping our eyes on the long-term needs, that we know that we have communities and rural communities that do not have access to broadband. They don’t have the infrastructure. And I know that there are proposals in the legislature to do so.
Tony Thurmond: (27:46)
As the Governor says, we need federal support to support building that infrastructure. We need resources for our schools, and so that’s where we all are. We’re leaning in and I like to say that we should just focus on the three buckets that I think are probably the most important in my estimation. One is safety. I appreciate that the Department of Public Health and the Governor have given us a metric for when schools should be closed. That metric is really clear. If you’re on the watch list and you haven’t been off for 14 days, that’s a really clear metric. And I think that’s important.
Tony Thurmond: (28:19)
I know there’s still lots of questions about how guidance is going to work for any waivers and things of that nature, and I think we’re all as a field trying to work through those questions. But that’s a really clear metric to highlight to point to. Safety has to be our first priority. I think as we think about safety, we also have to think about the social, emotional learning needs of our students and that distance learning mitigation fund that the Governor talks about allows schools to get counseling resources. We’ve been working with school districts to maximize Medi-Cal dollars and I’ve created a counseling coalition to help address the needs of our students. That’s got to be our top priority.
Tony Thurmond: (28:53)
You’re going to hear us talk a lot in the days and weeks about helping districts improve their family engagement work and providing more professional development for educators on how to do distance learning at a high level. The Department of Education is going to be putting out more guidance. We’ve worked closely with the state board, with CTA, with a number of educator groups, with school districts to get input on what that guidance might look like, because we know that live instruction is important. We’re not saying that kids need to be on computers all day. But we know that students do better when they see their teachers or their one to one aides in a live instruction format.
Tony Thurmond: (29:28)
That’s important to their social, emotional wellbeing, we want that to be balanced. We know that educators are worried about the circumstances that they’re headed into and we want to be cautious. Again, safety, social, emotional learning and then we just have to continue to talk about learning. The circumstances are not ideal, that students are returning to school in, but students continue to learn even under these conditions. And we’ve got to make that a priority and to make sure that we offset any gaps that may have resulted when we first moved into distance learning. We know that there were bumps, but I’m grateful that when we moved into distance learning, people put safety first and there was no playbook to do this. We know that times were bumps, we’re learning from that now, so we’re using that learning to make sure that we guide the next round of distance learning in a way that is balanced, that is thoughtful, and that offsets any learning gaps, that prioritizes equity.
Tony Thurmond: (30:21)
And you’ve heard the Governor talk today about resources that districts can use to balance out their distance learning with equity as a lens. These are clearly uncharted waters. These are times where we don’t know all of the answers, but there are some things that we know. The Governor says it all the time. Wear a face covering and that’ll help to keep us safe and flatten the curve. We can’t control what Coronavirus does, but we can control how we respond to it. We wear a face covering, we wash our hands, we maintain physical distance, we give ourselves a fighting chance to reduce and prevent infection across our communities and certainly in our schools.
Tony Thurmond: (30:59)
We stand committed to work closely with the Governor and Department of Public Health, the State Board of Education, the legislature, on continuing to provide guidance to make sure that all of our students are served as well as they can be under these circumstances, again, with a preface and focus on making sure that we do more to improve the delivery of special education, making sure we do more to support English learners, we do more to support those families who are loosely connected to schools. We want every school to have a hotline where parents can call if they need help. Don’t ask them to email. We want them to have a hotline that they can call. We’ll be reaching out to school districts to talk to them about how we create these kinds of family supportive family engagement models.
Tony Thurmond: (31:38)
These are tough times, but as it relates to providing an education to our students, we’ve got to rise to that challenge. We can do more together for our 6 million students. I’m grateful for you Governor, I’m grateful to our State Board President and our legislature, and to all of our students, parents, educators, administrators, and superintendents, continue to be safe and well, and we stay tuned and available to answer questions today and at any point for our California education system.
Gov. Newsom: (32:04)
Tremendous thank you, Mr. Superintendent, and thank you for the spirit that brought you today to join us but moreover all the outstanding work you’ve done. I think what I hope everybody just heard besides all the specifics and the good work the superintendent has been advancing, is a spirit of collaboration, a spirit of cooperation that doesn’t exist in every state, many states it does. But it’s a wonderful thing when you have a Superintendent, and Governor, and legislative leaders, advocacy of all stripes working with the same goal in mind. And the superintendent was very honest and forthright, and none of us are naive. The challenges that we experienced closing out the school session last year, the challenges that we face with this ever evolving pandemic, and the challenges of meeting the needs of the largest school system in the United States of America. And so we’re open to argument, we’re interested in evidence, we’re not ideological about our approach throughout this endeavor.
Gov. Newsom: (33:08)
And we recognize the humility that needs to be behind all of these efforts. Some will do as designed and intended, others will have unintended consequences that we need to own up to and address in real time, but we’re condensing decades of conversations in just a few months. And in that spirit and in that light, I want to just pick up a little bit on what the superintendent just said as it relates to the work that we need to do more broadly to support and secure technology and access and address the digital divide for the State of California and for the future of our state, to support our parents, to support those teachers that may not need those supports for academic purposes, but need them for economic and other purposes.
Gov. Newsom: (33:57)
One of the reasons Tom Steyer agreed to co-chair our Economic and Jobs Recovery taskforce was his desire in his commitment to address the digital divide once and for all. He made a point, which was very resonant with me, is we’ve been talking about the digital divide for a vast majority of our lifetime. We want to move past this and have the digital divide in our rear-view mirror. And while schools are foundational in those efforts, we also need to broaden this agenda. And so with that, I’m very pleased that Tom joined us here today. He’s going to update you on the work of the taskforce, the work that he’s done with internet service providers and others, and I’ll talk in a moment about an executive order we’re putting out today based upon his advocacy, based upon his leadership. Tom Steyer
Tom Steyer: (34:58)
Thank you Mr. Governor. And I want to take a second at the outset to thank the Governor and his team. They are working incredibly hard, they’re making tough decisions every day to put the health of Californians first, and as the co-chair of the taskforce, I am very proud to play a role in helping advise them. We know that across the board, this pandemic, among its many profound impacts, has laid bare the inequalities that are baked into the foundation of our country and all of our systems. One specific example is that too many families, mainly low income families of color, are without quality internet service. The taskforce, as the Governor said, has been focused from its inception on collaborating to help close this digital divide. Our discussions have ranged over how it’s affecting every aspect of our economic and social wellbeing, from telehealth, to teletraining, to e-Commerce, but particularly the issue of distance learning, now that over six million California school kids will be learning online this fall.
Tom Steyer: (36:19)
That’s why with everyone from Governor Newsom, to State Superintendent, Tony Thurmond, to the state legislature. Every member of the taskforce is committed to closing the digital divide in California A.S.A.P. We want a more fair, more resilient, and more inclusive economy in the 21st century, starting with ensuring that everyone has access to the tools that they need to succeed. And in particular, we know that under no circumstance can we the adults fail our children. We cannot take no for an answer. Specifically on the taskforce we’ve been working with members that represent Apple, Google, LinkedIn, Esri, AT&T, NBC Universal Comcast, Salesforce, Edison International, the community foundations, the California Teachers association and others. And they’ve been working diligently to bring forward specific ideas to address all aspects of the digital divide.
Tom Steyer: (37:33)
In addition, we’ve been working with the other relevant private sector companies who are not members of the taskforce to make sure that we work collaboratively to get a comprehensive solution. In particular, the taskforce commends and appreciates the work of the internet service providers in our state and their longstanding efforts to provide connectivity to all Californians. But now we seek and need an even stronger partnership with them. During this time of distance learning and COVID-19, the internet service providers should and must increase their outreach regarding their affordable plan offerance, help deploy near-term connectivity solutions, as well as ensure that financially insecure families remain connected. We’re also looking at a number of ways to provide technical support, including leveraging the community-based programs that are already working to advance digital literacy in our communities, and finding community volunteers to provide real time assistance to people trying to learn online.
Tom Steyer: (38:46)
Lastly, I just want to reiterate how thankful we all are to serve a Governor that listens to scientists, puts public health first, and is willing to put together a bipartisan economic taskforce. A Governor who says, “Put your partisanship aside, bring me your best ideas, and let’s rebuild together.” At a time of great division and emotion across our country, we are doing it together. That’s how we’re supposed to be in America, especially when times are tough. Thank you.
Gov. Newsom: (39:30)
Appreciate the sentiment and moreover, Tom, thank you for all your outstanding work leading this taskforce. We were able to just a couple of days ago to lay out a lot of the things that you’ve already accomplished on that taskforce, and a lot of the things that we’ll be working with the legislature over the next few weeks to deliver. But none is more foundational to the fate and future of the State of California and a future [inaudible 00:39:53] this state to address the issue of equity, to address this divide again that transcends just our school system, but persistS all throughout our society. Then finally dealing with this digital divide in the State of California. No reason the State of California shouldn’t lead the nation in this space.
Gov. Newsom: (40:14)
That’s your resolve, it’s our collective commitment and we codified a lot of that based upon guidance and support that the hundred member taskforce provided based upon guidance and support, that a lot of key legislative leaders have provided based upon the expertise we’re able to source at the California Public Utilities Commission and elsewhere we’ve put out today in executive order, quite literally codifying a lot of those recommendations, a lot of those thoughts. We have specific goals as it relates to not just access to the internet, but quality access. And we’re talking in terms of a goal of a hundred megabytes of download speed which should be a foundational pursuit for all of us across this country. That’s close to fiber-like speeds but that’s where we need to be if we’re going to be globally competitive and provide the quality of education regardless of our backgrounds that people deserve.
Gov. Newsom: (41:10)
We put out new mapping expectation, that was Tom’s referenced, Esri and others, new data collection, more transparency, more accountability, with some strategies on funding, working with the legislature and what Superintendent Thurmond referenced, some of the legislative pursuits that are currently underway. And new expectation in terms of time to delivery, and deployment, and adoption. We also have dusted off this old broadband council that existed, well in a world that no longer exists or at least was conceived in a world that no longer exists. We’re still in sort of the dialogue mode in some of our thinking, and so we’re going to be upgrading their work, put together a new action plan that has to be fundamentally re-imagined moving forward. So just wanted folks to know there’s progress in that space, it’s in the thematic that we’re advancing here today as relates to digital divide and distance learning for our kids.
Gov. Newsom: (42:03)
…That we’re advancing here today, as it relates to digital divide and distance learning for our kids. But it’s again, foundational for our economic future as well. Speaking about our future, no one more committed to future of this state than the leader, president of our school system in the state of California, Linda Darling-Hammond, many of you know her well in terms of her advocacy and support, particularly for people’s special needs, the work she did at Stanford University in her own right, and oh, she leads internationally, not just nationally connected to this cause and constantly providing leading edge thoughts and leading edge advice. We are just so blessed she took this formal role here in the state of California, but in that role, Linda has been working with local districts on the application, not of why we need to do distance learning, not what we need to do in terms of putting those guard rails in place, but how to deliver it from a bottom up, not just top down perspective.
Gov. Newsom: (43:04)
She wants to talk a little bit more about that work. Linda, if you could just amplify the legitimate concerns we have as someone with my own learning disabilities, recognizing the challenges with two of my kids in that place, really the needs to help them special needs students in the state of California. I’d love you as well just talk a little bit about that after you move forward with your broader presentation on the work you’re doing at the local level.
Linda Darling-Hammond: (43:35)
I’m glad to do that. Thanks governor for all that you’re doing to move the state forward in all the ways we’ve been talking about. I want to give us a small glimpse of what’s happening in the field, how are our school systems stepping up in respect to all of the initiatives that we’ve just described. I checked in with school leaders in a number of large and small districts this week. As the state superintendent said, educators in California really are leaning in both on the quality of distance learning and the equity concerns that we have put front and center.
Linda Darling-Hammond: (44:11)
We’ve come a long way since spring in figuring out how to do this work. When schools were physically closed in March, school districts scrambled to figure out how to purchase devices. There was supply chain problems, how to get 20% of households without wifi wired up, how to help teachers learn how to effectively teach online. Since then a lot has happened. Our 58 county offices of education have stepped up in a big way to help districts with technology and training. Four of these counties, Kern, Orange, San Bernardino, and San Diego have launched a distance learning consortium through the CCEE, which provides curriculum units and lesson plans as well as training for teachers.
Linda Darling-Hammond: (44:56)
Many have created their own digital equity taskforces to purchase and distribute computers. The California Department of Education and the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence has been providing guidance, toolkits, webinars, and professional learning opportunities, as we heard districts have spent the summer gearing up to ensure quality and equity in distance learning. Talking to the school leaders this week, in districts ranging from our biggest districts in Los Angeles, San Diego and Long Beach to tiny, high poverty rural districts like Elk Hills, which is 30 miles East of Bakersfield and San Lucas, which is in a part of Monterey County that has no streetlights or sidewalks. I’ve heard how all of those districts have ensured that 100 of their students can have laptops and hotspots in settings ranging from households to homeless shelters.
Linda Darling-Hammond: (45:51)
A huge amount of learning has really gone on. San Diego and Elk Hills held focus groups with parents to learn about what worked and what did not work last spring, what families need, that guided their plans for common online platforms and instructional approaches in the fall. Los Angeles learned more about how to offer effective online instruction by offering summer school to all, and more than 100,000 students showed up, studying reading and math, of course, but also music and the arts. Thousands of them took guitar lessons with instruments donated by Fender Guitars. They’ve got another 2000 coming this year, because they’re committed to having the arts side by side with math and social studies and science and English language arts in their curriculum.
Linda Darling-Hammond: (46:42)
I heard from all of these districts how schools are organized to ensure that students will have daily face-to-face instruction covering the core instructional areas plus PE and the arts in large and small groups, and in one to one settings where those are needed to meet special needs. Every one of these districts had really thought through how to get the services, wraparound services to students with special education needs even online, but they’re interested as soon as it’s made viable to bring small groups back, face to face. The staff have learned how to use platforms and Zoom breakout rooms and chat boxes, and how to work more effectively with parents and students in these virtual settings.
Linda Darling-Hammond: (47:29)
In San Diego, parents and students, along with teachers will have professional development at the start of the school year, August 31st for them. They’ll all learn how to engage daily in the online learning and the project work that is going to occur in each of the subjects as well as how to access teachers during their office hours for one to one problem solving. In Los Angeles, school starts next week. In addition to the daily classes and all of their content areas, students who are in need will be able to access free online tutoring to anyone who needs it.
Linda Darling-Hammond: (48:02)
In long beach, starting September 1st, the district has more than enough laptops and hotspots for every child. The courses are planned and ready. As was true last spring, they’ve identified excellent teachers who do a terrific job of distance learning who are offering classes in specialty subjects online, as many students as once who can come. Last spring, some of them drew over 2,000 students and some will be offering demonstration lessons online for other teachers who want to learn their approaches. In Elk Hill, school started this week. 100% of students were connected and in attendance. By day two of classes, this district has overhauled all of its curriculum plans in the subject areas to use technology to accelerate learning. They’ve got social, emotional learning leading off every day, and that’s also common across these districts.
Linda Darling-Hammond: (48:57)
Finally in very rural San Lucas, every student has been provided with a new laptop and internet service, but as a you and Tom Steyer and others were describing, wifi is still sometimes unreliable. So the district has prepared a plan B and a plan C. If the wifi fails, the students can call in to join the class and talk to the teacher. Students also have paper pack ups for backup. If they can’t get through I’m online every week, the staff will convene to figure out how to reach any children who are not able to engage that week, including making socially distanced house calls. They’ve got a mobile science lab that will provide three brown bag science projects. Every week, they’ll offer reasons to come to school ranging from music Mondays with dance videos, to travel Tuesdays with virtual field trips and wacky Wednesdays with silly dress options and crazy hair days for online meetings, with prizes from local organizations.
Linda Darling-Hammond: (49:57)
So everyone is leaning in. The creativity that our educators are showing in addressing this moment and in keeping equity front and center in this work is encouraging. We’ll certainly encounter more challenges. But California is learning how to do this work. At the end of the process, if we continue to double down, when we go back to school in person, we’re likely to have entire school systems, students and staff that are more technologically proficient, stronger connections between home and school, because people have had to figure out how to do that, and more capacity to support learning progress than we had before.
Linda Darling-Hammond: (50:37)
I’m glad to answer additional questions, particularly on the issue of meeting the needs of our English learners and special education students. I can say that in every case where I talked to school leaders, this was front of mind for them, and very creative approaches to try to figure out how to use small Zoom breakout rooms for paraprofessionals to work with the students with special needs, one-on-one meetings with specialists, as well as with classroom teachers, and eagerness to get back to school in person.
Gov. Newsom: (51:16)
All right. Linda, perhaps just if I may, just because I think it’s important, the guidelines we put out recently afford the ability for districts to make a determination for those with acute needs to allow in-person instruction, even with the broader guidelines we’ve put out. Maybe you can just amplify that. I know there’s additional work being done in that space. But as a foundational principle, that is one that we have advanced through your leadership, Tony Thurmond’s leadership.
Linda Darling-Hammond: (51:50)
Yeah. Many, many districts are prepared to offer small group setting, even while schools are closed, in the way that childcare settings are allowed to operate with all of the rules that you reviewed for us earlier to be able to bring back in person those students whose needs are difficult to meet online and are much better met in person. We are working through guidance with the California Department of Public Health, that should be released this coming week, that will allow school districts in collaboration and consultation with their local public health department to convene these small groups of students in safe ways that allow their needs to be met in person.
Gov. Newsom: (52:46)
I appreciate that, more on that subject, but I appreciate you just setting forth the broader tenure of expectation in terms of our recognition that there are simply kids that will never ever have that quality learning that we all desire to advance online, no matter what kind of support we provide, even if we individualize it, and will require even more. So thank you for all your work in that space and including just your incredible advocacy to the space. I don’t want to get off topic, but over the last year and a half, the budgets that we have preserved, even in this economy and the budgets we substantially enhanced last year were in the special education space, and we recognize we have enormous amount of work still left to do.
Gov. Newsom: (53:31)
Again, as I said, closing things out, bottom line, learning is non negotiable, but neither is safety. With that, let me briefly go through the issue that brings many of you to these press conferences and quickly update you on the latest number of positive cases that we have in since August 13th. You’ll see a number there of 7,934, as was the case on Wednesday, before you jot that number down, consider that this will be the last day we will have to report backlogged cases related to a backlog that many of you are very familiar with. Of the 7,934, 4,429 are backlog cases putting our new case number today at 3,505.
Gov. Newsom: (54:23)
So this was the day we committed to reporting out our efforts to clean up the backlog, bring all the positive cases related to the backlog of total cases, roughly 295,000 cases. A lot of those will be de-duplicated, and roughly 20,000 positives in that cohort. On Monday, we’re going to break down by county a detailed list so people will have with clarity and precision every single number again on the county by county basis. But this completes our efforts, 100% of our efforts to address the backlog, to update our case numbers, and that’s exactly what we’re doing here on this slide and on this slide.
Gov. Newsom: (55:10)
Our positivity rate now in the state of California, averaging 137,000 tests a day, and I’ll repeat that, we’re averaging 137,000 tests a day. 188,000, a few days back, 111,000 that came in yesterday. Averaging 137,000 cases. We have a positivity rate, percentage of people that test positive for COVID-19 versus the total number of people that were tested of 6.2% over the last 14-day period. Last time I presented the positivity rate, it was at 7.0%, today at 6.2%, moving, as we asserted a few weeks back and certainly asserted last week, in a positive direction.
Gov. Newsom: (55:57)
You could see here and you unpack this, the 14 day look, positivity rate, you can see where it was even pre the last presentation at 7.0, over 7.3, dropping down, stabilizing, bouncing around a little bit in the last seven or so days. Not surprisingly and in accordance with trends that we have presented consistently over the course of months. Positivity rates, hospitalizations, ICU, having a relational construct. Here, hospitalization numbers continue to decline, 14-day number, 19.9% decrease, 20% decrease over a 14-day period. That’s an encouraging sign.
Gov. Newsom: (56:41)
I remind you as I always do, this is total number in the aggregate. None of us live in the aggregate. Each and every one of you lives somewhere, the extent you’re watching this within the state of California, somewhere in the state hospitalization numbers may vary, may be very different in terms of outlook and concerns for you. That’s why we have a county monitoring list reminding you the state’s population is larger than 21 state populations combined, but in the aggregate, the state of California experienced roughly 20% decrease in hospitalization patients that have identified COVID-19 in the last 14 days.
Gov. Newsom: (57:18)
The last slide, presentation last Monday saw numbers as high as 9% total capacity in the hospital system, bed capacity filled with COVID-19 patients. We’re now at 7%. ICU admissions down some 14.3%, roughly 14%. Basically tracking where hospitalizations are. That’s an encouraging sign. We need to see more stability. We need to see that line continued to bend in this direction. We’re not out of the woods. Do not take that snapshot by the way of 3,300 or so positive cases to assume anything. The trend over a 14-day period shows a much higher number than that, but we are seeing a trend nonetheless that is moving in the right direction because of all of your outstanding work.
Gov. Newsom: (58:11)
Thank you. To everybody watching, thank you, to 40 million Californians, and those that have really done their best to be responsible, not only with their own health, but to their friends, family, loved ones and the broader community and the society we’re trying to rebuild after this pandemic.
Gov. Newsom: (58:29)
Care capacity in the ICU’s down to about 20% from 22, 23. So you see that reflected in the pie chart. Again, encouraging numbers, putting a little less pressure on the system, but again, that pressure persists in certain parts, certain regions of the state disproportionally now, as we’ve been very clear about in the Central Valley. Eight counties that continue in that valley to be top of mind of concerning consideration, but even in the Central Valley, we’re seeing, in most cases, not every case, most case a rate of growth that’s beginning to decline, but still growth that is of concern.
Gov. Newsom: (59:11)
As the superintendent said, I don’t have to always say it, please wear a mask, continue to physically distance. These are rules and guidelines that we put out within our education system when, not if we reopened for in-person learning. That will happen. If you ask when that will happen, sooner than later, if we continue to wear a mask and continue to take seriously the need to physically distance, including this weekend where we now have a new flex order that just came out from Cal ISO, independent system operator. That basically means those are the experts as it relates energy consumption in the state.
Gov. Newsom: (59:51)
They wanted me to tell you that this flex warning that they put out today means it would be helpful to the entire electrical delivery system in the state of California if you can, to the extent warranted and possible, reduce your electricity consumption between the hours of 3 and 8 PM. We’re seeing triple digit temperatures. I think I read they’re anticipating Death Valley temperatures to go to record of 127 degrees, that’s in our state, that’s not some distant land overseas, the next seven, eight, nine, 10 days, we’re going to experience record breaking temperatures as the case in any jurisdiction on the globe.
Gov. Newsom: (01:00:36)
That means we can all do well just to be thoughtful about our electricity and energy consumption. So if you wanted to remind your kids when you walk out of a room to turn the lights off, this is the time to do it, particularly between the hours of 3 and 8. When you’re out there this weekend, because of those triple digit temperatures, we encourage you to physically distance, avoid as much mixing as you possibly can and maintain your vigilance as it relates to your own personal hygiene, washing your hands, being the most impactful thing you can do.
Gov. Newsom: (01:01:07)
So that’s a very long winded presentation. Forgive me, but I don’t know anything more important to parents out there in the state of California than the subject matter that brings us to this hour. I also want to just, again, thank the head of our State Board of Education, Linda Darling-Hammond, and thank the superintendent of public education, Tony Thurmond. Thank you to the co-chair of our economic recovery task force, Tom Steyer, for their participation, their presentations here today, and all of them stand by with me to answer any questions.
Speaker 1: (01:01:42)
Hannah Wiley, Sac Bee.
Hannah Wiley: (01:01:47)
Hi, governor. Thanks for taking questions. Pivoting a little bit here. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals today struck down the 2016 law, banning possession of high capacity firearm magazines. So my question is, do you plan to take action? Will California respond to this? What’s the next step moving forward on California’s part?
Gov. Newsom: (01:02:12)
Well, I’m very proud of working to lead that effort and also working with legislative leaders, governor Brown, others that were instrumental in advancing that collective cause, California’s leadership as it relates to gun safety is second to none in this nation. I remind everybody, a gun respectfully has never killed anybody unless the gun is used as a blunt instrument. The gun requires a dangerous and deadly component, and that is a bullet, ammunition. It’s a rather interesting fact in this state for over a quarter century, not in this country however, we have background checks, comprehensive background checks, at least here in the state of California on gun purchases, but not on its deadly component. So we’ve long advanced efforts to focus, not just on guns, but also focus on keeping…
Gov. Newsom: (01:03:02)
… on guns, but also focus on keeping those dangerous components out of the hands of people that otherwise should not be afforded that fundamental privilege/right. Large capacity magazine clips, with respect, I think fall into that category. There’s been local ordinances that have been upheld by the courts. The state ordinance, I haven’t had the chance to read the decision that just came out. When I do, I’ll have a chance to respond in detail to your question about what our next steps are. But I think it was sound. I think it was right. And I think that the overwhelming, I don’t think I know, the overwhelming majority of Californians agreed when they supported a ballot initiative that we put forth asking them for their opinion on this subject as well.
Speaker 2: (01:03:49)
Patrick Healy, NBC 4.
Tony Thurmond: (01:03:53)
Thank you very much. Mr. Governor, a couple of questions, one related to COVID and one related to the problems with the United Parcel Service. I’m sorry. USPS, the postal service. That’s whether or not it will be able to deliver the volume of mail-in ballots for the November election. Is there anything that the state of California can do to deal with that? And the COVID question in schools is related to what Linda Darling-Hammond was talking about, these small groups of students with special needs being able to convene in person. Can that occur in the state and the counties on the watch list? And when will the specific guidance for that be coming out. Thank you.
Gov. Newsom: (01:04:34)
Thank you for the question. And, since I opened up that door and opened up the conversation, in anticipation, rightfully, that someone may bring it up, certainly one we’ve been talking about for months now. Linda, you’re still on the phone. And, if you could, answer that question. And maybe you can also amplify it, talking a little bit about just a broad strokes preview of some of these care center concepts that are also being formalized throughout the state.
Linda Darling-Hammond: (01:05:02)
Right? So, even as we speak, childcare centers do operate for essential workers and so on in various parts of the state, including the counties on the watch list. Those guidelines that have been created can be developed further for a similar kind of convening in school districts that are on the watch list, as counties that are on the watch list to convene in very small groups that are in small cohorts that do not interact with other cohorts that are able to work with staff on particular kinds of learning. That would be in counties that are on the watch list where the framework for the provision of those services meets a whole set of guidelines.
Linda Darling-Hammond: (01:05:59)
Similarly, there are places in the state that are figuring out how to offer settings for children to come to for distance learning if they’re in a place that cannot receive internet, or if there’s not a parent at home, or if they need additional support. In San Francisco, the Department of Children, Families, and Youth is creating some of these kinds of essentially childcare-like settings, small groups with social distancing, face coverings, and supportive adults, to be sure that kids are supported even during distance learning. So that, as I said, is something that’s being worked through, in terms of the guidelines, and will be available probably within the week for consideration by school districts.
Gov. Newsom: (01:06:54)
Appreciate it. The question is a very sensitive one and very poignant and personal one for hundreds of thousands of families in this state. And so, I appreciate, Linda, you’re illuminating a little bit more about what’s already happening in this space, but moreover, some of the more specific prescriptive guidelines we’ll be putting out. Again, a lot of pressure, a lot of anxiety on parents, on students, these kids, our kids themselves, and our teachers, and paraprofessionals, and others.
Gov. Newsom: (01:07:25)
And I just want to say all the teachers and paraprofessionals, thank you. Thank you for working through your own anxieties, your own fears, your own concern about your own personal health. Many of you have kids yourself that need support in addition to the kids that you are supporting every day in our virtual classrooms. I know all of you got into education for equity purposes. Overwhelming majority did to right wrongs, to address the issue of social mobility and care deeply about learning disabilities, and learning differences, and the needs of special needs that so many of your students have. So again, a lot of work being done, a lot of anxiety in this space. And know that we’ve got a good team, Linda, and her team, and of course great work of our superintendent that are resolved for the long haul to address these issues.
Gov. Newsom: (01:08:20)
Let me just quickly address the issue as it relates to what’s happening or not happening with some of the sabotage that’s clearly intentionally be done to our postal delivery here in this country. This is going to impact not just election’s. It’s going to impact your ability to get a quality care in terms of your prescriptions, to get information, to be able to correspond with loved ones, and the like. Vulnerable populations disproportionately being impacted because of the utilization of our postal system. I haven’t experienced this in my lifetime. I don’t know that any of us have, the weaponization of sorts of our postal system.
Gov. Newsom: (01:08:59)
Here’s an answer to your question. I am not a member of federal government. But, however, as a federal taxpayer, I demand and expect more of our country. And that first needs to be called out. I’m not alone in calling that out. And I don’t know that this, by any stretch, is even a partisan issue. I think a vast majority of us, regardless of our political stripes, would assess the situation accordingly and assert, I think, similar sentiment around legitimate concern about sorting systems vanishing, around concerns around just basic, fundamental, life saving delivery that has been part of our proud history as it relates to our postal service. It’s about as American as apple pie and I’ll throw in baseball.
Gov. Newsom: (01:09:48)
That being said, it relates to the issue of what the state can do. Let me tell you what we’ve done. I signed two executive orders a number of months ago to jumpstart the process working with our Secretary of State, Alex Padilla, on mail-in ballots. Mail-in ballots are well known and well utilized here in the state of California. Increasing numbers, every election of people using absentee ballots, which are mail-in ballots very effectively and very safely. The numbers increase every single year. But not everybody wants the benefit of a mail-in ballot, even in a pre COVID environment. They want an in-person experience. There’s something that is very touching and emotional about that. I’ll be honest. That’s my preferred source of voting. There’s something about election day, bringing your kids, as I have the last few times, and sort of teach them I’m civics. It’s deeply emotional and attaches very deeply and seared very deeply in my memory from the first time I was able to vote.
Gov. Newsom: (01:10:48)
We want to provide those points of access as well. And that was the second executive order I signed, to provide access points for drop-off that is not just to the postal service, drop off ballots that you may have filled out at home but want to drop off in person, provisional ballots, and the like, and the work that, obviously, needs to be done for people that otherwise are not accessing our cannot for other limitations and challenges the absentee or mail-in ballots. Those two executive orders were codified. Thank you to the leadership, the California legislature. They passed two pieces of legislation, and I recently just signed them, to double down on those commitments.
Gov. Newsom: (01:11:32)
But we also did this. We have a provision that allows 17 days to collect ballots. It’s postmarked. We will give the ability for our registrars to get those things collected and, moreover, certified but over a 17 day period. We thought that was important with all the uncertainty of COVID. We didn’t realize how prescient, not just important, that now appears to have been with what has happened with some of what I would describe almost as vandalism of our postal system.
Gov. Newsom: (01:12:10)
And so, I hope this is a temporary moment. I hope cooler heads will prevail. I hope Congress work with the president to address his concerns and work together to build this into the next stimulus package, put aside our differences. I expect and believe that will happen. I say, not just as an optimist, but I think as a pragmatist as well, it’s in everyone’s interest that this get resolved. But, in California’s interests, we have a 17 day window, if indeed there are delays.
Speaker 2: (01:12:40)
Speaker 3: (01:12:44)
Hey, Governor Newsom. Thanks, as always, for giving us some time. We’ve asked you about this before, but there are now two wealth tax proposals for the legislature pushed by, in particular, by teacher unions who say they’re going to need that money to be able to reopen safely. They’ve made clear that this is going to be one for next year. So, I think we can count on that being at the top of the agenda for them. Is that a proposal that you would be potentially willing to entertain the idea of some sort?
Gov. Newsom: (01:13:14)
… to address that shortfall. I have a presentation that I’m already working on to the legislature, a January budget proposal. So, far as I’m concerned, you have to be considerate and open to what the conditions provide for. And so, we’ll anticipate things passing on the ballot, perhaps things falling short. What’s happens if this passes? What happens if this doesn’t pass? What is the next step? What’s the next consideration? I haven’t read this. I saw a press release or, more over, I saw some reporting on a wealth tax.
Gov. Newsom: (01:13:45)
I will just say this though, we’re the state of California, not the United States of America. I thought the tax cut that President Trump advanced was a huge mistake, a colossal mistake that will impact our kids and grandkids. You saw that demonstrably so in one of the most robust economic expansion periods in American history, one the president clearly inherited from the previous administration, that we were running historic deficits. That was only possible because, well, it was aided certainly by that historic tax cut where many companies and individuals weren’t even asking for it. I thought that was a mistake. And I’m looking forward to a Biden administration to right that wrong and fix that.
Gov. Newsom: (01:14:25)
I think, at a state level, it’s a way of long windedly making this point, you have to be careful about taking national constructs, which may be appropriate for a nation, and having state-by-state constructs, unless you consider the impacts of those decisions and your ability to retain and attract talent, individuals, companies, and your competitiveness. Everything needs to be considered in that light. And I would encourage those that are making proposals in this space to consider those impacts in relationship to what may or may not be happening in other parts of this nation.
Gov. Newsom: (01:15:04)
So, for me, the issue of taxation issue is, for me, one where, as a federal construct, it means one thing. As a state and even at a local level, one has to consider the impacts of these decisions in terms of our competitive environment, in terms of all of those factors as well.
Speaker 2: (01:15:24)
Corin Hoggard, ABC30.
Corin Hoggard: (01:15:28)
Good afternoon, Governor. We have a fairly sizeable private religious school here in Fresno County that opened for in-person instruction yesterday, then got a public health officer order to close. And yet, they opened again today, despite that order. So, can you talk to us about the consequences for that, both from a public health perspective and also the legal perspective?
Gov. Newsom: (01:15:50)
Yeah, I mean, I grew up… I had the privilege of at least a moment of education at Catholic schools. We were taught to respect rules and regulations. And so, I’m disappointed, obviously, that they’re not abiding by their local health officer, whose purpose it is simply to keep people healthy, keep people safe, not only the kids but the leadership of that school and others. So, by definition, I’m disappointed in that, particularly as someone who grew up in the church and has profound reverence, profound reverence, not just respect for its teachings. For me, not maybe, this provides a bit of a disconnect in that respect because I think we operate from a communitarian perspective, at least in terms of the religious teachings that I was afforded.
Gov. Newsom: (01:16:41)
And I think, as it relates to this pandemic and how easily transmitted this disease is and how impacted this state and our economy and our nation and the world has been that we’d all do well to abide by our local health officers. And so, the system we set up was designed exactly as it’s now operating. Local health officer doing the right thing, to the extent that this school, unfortunately, is choosing not to model good behavior and doing the right thing. And to the extent that the county will be involved and the extent the state needs to be involved, we’ll consider that.
Gov. Newsom: (01:17:18)
So look, what happens in these instances, governor sort of points something out and people react and everybody flexes their muscles. I’m not trying to flex any muscle here. All I am is trying to encourage people to stay safe, stay healthy. Because my absolute goal is one, I think, the leaders of the school share. And that’s to keep our kids safe, to keep them educated. Our default remains in person education for all of the reasons that we’ve stated and all the reasons I know that the leadership of that school believes in. But we can do that by moving quickly to eradicate and mitigate the spread of this disease, get the treatments, and ultimately get to a vaccine. The sooner we do that, as soon as we model good behavior and don’t send mixed messages, then the sooner all of us go back to school and we all achieve our respective goals. And so, that’s my hope and expectation. And I say that with deep love and deep reverence for the teachings of that school.
Speaker 2: (01:18:15)
Final question, Margaret Carrero, KNX.
Margaret Carrero: (01:18:20)
Yes. Governor, thank you so much for taking questions. I’m hoping you could speak to a little bit about California becoming the first state with 600,000 confirmed cases of COVID? And speak a little bit more to the specifics of today’s executive order, if you could.
Gov. Newsom: (01:18:36)
Yeah. I think the 6.2% positivity rate is a very encouraging sign. I think it’s interesting. California, while we may have gotten a slower start than we otherwise wanted, a stubborn start as relates to testing, we’ve been able to step up our testing in a meaningful way. It’s still not where I believe we should be and where I’m committed to taking the state in terms of total number of tests. But we are punching above our weight now in terms of our efforts to really get a sense of what is the background rate of infections, what’s the community spread of this disease. We’re not shying away from that. We’re not playing in the political frame that somehow tests are bad because they will by definition show a higher count of total number of positives.
Gov. Newsom: (01:19:17)
But the number that really matters to us, the one that I’m not as fixated on as perhaps others are, is that positivity rate that gives us a better sense of what’s really happening in terms of the community spread. What’s happening in our hospitals is foundational. What’s happening in the ICUs foundational. Obviously, that leads to concerns and obvious issues related to morbidity, mortality. And so, that’s where our energy is are.
Gov. Newsom: (01:19:42)
But I’m not going to back off on more tests because I fear a question like yours or concern about total number of cases. You have a responsibility, this nation, I think, deserves to have a better sense to know how prevalent is this disease. And I can assure you it’s exponentially… well, maybe not exponentially, it’s significantly, I would argue, more prevalent than those numbers even in California suggest. And it’s simply because we haven’t put the testing protocols in place and we haven’t scaled our testing capacity as the most innovative nation on the planet.
Gov. Newsom: (01:20:19)
And so, that includes California. We’ve got work to do. We’ve got this XPRIZE we put out. We got this new testing taskforce that’s been instructed to be more creative in terms of new testing strategies, new in-home testing strategies, non PCR testing strategies. And we’ll be looking forward to announcements in that space, or I hope you’ll look forward to it very, very soon. So, that’s it broadly in a nutshell.
Gov. Newsom: (01:20:46)
You’ll see the executive order. Forgive me. I don’t want to belabor this, but we have that executive order. It should be up online and available to you. It is multiple pages. You’ll see the details in the executive order in terms of this broadband council and some of our new goals and expectations on our mega bits and bytes, rather, and other strategies to improve and expand our efforts that Tom and his team have been working on for many, many months. So, that’s a long day.
Gov. Newsom: (01:21:14)
For all of you that have been tuning in, thank you for the privilege of your time and attention. I want to thank my team, Ben Chida in particular, for all his hard work in terms of the education guidance, and Dr. Pan, who is with us today and her outstanding work working with the counties. They’ll be working overtime this weekend to clarify any final details. So, we really wanted to get that presentation to a point where everybody is 100% on the same page. And that will happen Monday. We’ll get that new updated monitoring list out and about, work with those elementary schools that are looking to do these waivers. Many of them have already submitted waivers and we look forward to the EPI data coming out Monday to help advance that cause as well.
Gov. Newsom: (01:21:57)
With that, continue the cause of good hygiene, wearing a face mask, be safe, and try to avoid mixing this very hot weekend. And, between three and eight, if you could, ISO would be pleased if you would turn off a few lights, if you could, to help us with our energy grid. Take care, everybody.