Oct 1, 2021

Gavin Newsom Announces COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate for California Students Press Conference Transcript

Gavin Newsom Announces COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate for California Students Press Conference Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsCalifornia Governor Gavin Newsom TranscriptsGavin Newsom Announces COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate for California Students Press Conference Transcript

California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students on October 1, 2021. Read the transcript of the news briefing speech here.

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Superintendent Matthews: (00:01)
This community has responded overwhelmingly. 96% of our staff are vaccinated. 90% of our students throughout San Francisco are vaccinated. And, we have a %100 mask wearing. So, I’m really proud of the work that this district, the community, the families, our staff members, the students have done to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to remain healthy and stay safe, because that’s what we need to do, if we’re going to make sure that each and every student receives quality instruction and equitable support so that they can thrive in the 21st century. And, I am extremely pleased and proud that the governor has chosen the San Francisco Unified School District to come today to speak to, and to make his announcement. I am now going to turn it over to Senator Scott Wiener. And, I just appreciate you being here, and thank you all for joining us.

Scott Wiener: (01:04)
Thank you, Superintendent Matthews. And I want to congratulate you, and your team, and all the teachers, and paraprofessionals, and parents, and everyone else who got this school district back open, got our kids back in the classroom. And, I think you’ve just done it masterfully. And I want to just congratulate you and your team for doing that. Now we have to make sure that our kids, and our teachers, and paraprofessionals, and the entire school community continues to be safe. And the way that we do that is by getting everyone vaccinated. By making sure that our teachers and paraprofessionals are vaccinated, by making sure that parents who are coming into the schools are vaccinated, and making sure that our kids are vaccinated. And it is very exciting that we are looking at moving toward down the five years old in the near future. And we need to make sure that all of our kids are vaccinated. This is just such a huge stressor for parents.

Scott Wiener: (02:06)
My youngest nephew just turned 12 earlier this week, and he was so excited to get his shot as he put it to me, “So, I can finally start to do things.” But it was very stressful for my sister and brother-in-law to have their child in school, who could not be vaccinated because he was too young. And as we get the expansion of what kids can be vaccinated, we need to make sure they are vaccinated. I want to thank the governor for his extraordinary leadership throughout this pandemic. As we are showing in California, having the lowest infection rate in the country. Science matters, and it matters when we have leaders who believe in science, who believe in vaccinations, and who understand that we have to take a public health approach to this pandemic. And to stop politicizing it, as has happened with some governors and other states.

Scott Wiener: (03:03)
So, I feel very fortunate that we have a governor who believes so deeply in science. And the governor does have a partner in the legislature. The legislature has shown over and over again, that we are willing to pass strong vaccination laws. And if we have to come back and do it again next year, we will do that. And we have a group of senators and assembly members who are meeting regularly, and talking to the administration. And we will keep up our end of the bargain to be a good partner to the governor. So with that, it’s an honor to welcome up our governor. I’m so honored that he’s making this announcement in San Francisco, our great leader, Governor Gavin Newsom.

Governor Gavin Newsom: (03:46)
Thank you senator. I appreciate your leadership, and I appreciate those remarks, and I appreciate all the support broadly, throughout this pandemic, and the journey that we’ve been on together. Look, let’s talk a little bit about where we are today. The senator was right to consequence the lowest case rates in America. Our positivity rates are a third and a quarter by this pandemic. We’re exhausted by the seasonality of it. We’re exhausted by these variants, the new mutations. And we’re all left wondering as we now move through the summer surge, not just here in California, but across this country, what lies in front of us, in the winter, and the spring? And while there continues to be encouraging signs, and continuing to see progress with more and more people that were maybe on the fence, that are now getting the vaccine, or life-saving drugs at the backend, there’s still a struggle to get to where we need to go.

Governor Gavin Newsom: (04:43)
And, that means we need to do more, and we need to do better to reach out and to make available more opportunities for people to get vaccinated and encourage them along the way. As you know, we have not been shy. The superintendent, I want to thank you for your leadership here in the school district. And Madam board chair, thank you for being here as well. We have continued to lean in. California was the first state in the United States to require statewide school mask wearing requirements. We were the first state in America to require all of our staff to either be vaccinated, and/or get weekly testing. We were the first state to step up at scale and broaden a commitment to zero-cost vaccinations, and testing, and to provide unprecedented amount of resources for PPE, and billions and billions of dollars to prepare to safely reopen our schools for in-person instruction.

Governor Gavin Newsom: (05:43)
We know, there is no substitute for in-person instruction. But, we need to do that on a consistent and sustainable basis, not an episodic basis. And what you’ve seen across this country is, that assert the need and desire for the social, emotional benefits of in-person instruction. Yet, they’re not following the science and as a consequence, the health of many of these districts, kids, as well as staff have been impacted. So, schools have actually closed more frequently in those states that have not been more disciplined in terms of advancing a more scientific and data driven approach to taming this disease, and doing our best to get this pandemic behind us. And that’s why we recognize good enough, never is. And that’s why we recognize our responsibility to do more. And that’s what we are announcing here today. A statewide requirement for in-person instruction for all of our children, to add to a well-established list that currently includes 10 vaccinations, and well-established rules and regulations that have been advanced by the legislature for decades, to add to that list, the vaccination for COVID-19.

Governor Gavin Newsom: (07:01)
We intend to do that once the FDA has fully approved the vaccine, which will give us time to work with districts, give us time to work with parents, and educators, to build more trust and confidence and build out a logistics, so that we can deliver on what we are promoting here today. And that promotion includes the following considerations. Once the FDA approves the vaccination in different cohorts, starting with 12 and above, grade 7 to 12, we will begin to apply that requirement in the next term, either January 1st or July 1st, whichever comes sooner. Concurrent with that, we also want to see all of our staff paraprofessionals, not just teachers, bus drivers, custodial staff, and the like, the folks that really make the school system operational, also see them get vaccinated as well. And, we will model similarly an FDA approval and work in concert, not only to apply and implement in parallel with all of those in grade 7 and 12, but on the basis of the guidelines and the regulations that will be forthcoming from the Biden administration, as it relates to all employees, we will consider moving that forward.

Governor Gavin Newsom: (08:24)
But, in the absence of that directive, we will be requiring staff, K through 12 to be vaccinated in that first phase of a two phase application of this new directive. The second phase of that application is everybody K to six. Again, that will be months away. Currently, we have in the state of California administered at least one dose to 63.5% of all of our young cohort ages, 12 to 17. But we have to do more, get 84% of all eligible receive one dose, but for 12 to 17, we’re not where we need to be.

Governor Gavin Newsom: (09:10)
And so, we hope this encourages folks to get vaccinated. We have no trepidation. Well, no hesitancy in encouraging local districts to move forward more expeditiously. And, you’ve seen that in a number of districts in the state of California that have moved forward more quickly with their own mandates and own timelines. And, we expect on the basis of other similar requirements that you’ll start to see an uptick in people getting vaccinated well before those dates that are established. You’ve seen that with healthcare worker mandates, you’ve seen that with state staff mandates, and I’ll just highlight, there was an analysis in New York Times yesterday about California’s healthcare mandate working as it was intended. Now, north of 90%, in some regions of the state it’s closer to 95, 96% of all healthcare workers got that vaccination before the stated requirement when into effect, midnight last night.

Governor Gavin Newsom: (10:10)
As it relates to the current vaccination requirements, I’ll remind people, the ones we announced a few months ago, they go into effect on the 15th of this month, as it relates to mandates for either being vaccinated and/or getting consistently tested. So, we’re building on that, we’re leaning forward, we’re anticipating a future with the winter surge that has been the most challenging for this state and states like California. In the past, we are mindful that we still have work to do. We are humbled by the challenge, but we want to get this thing done. We want to end this pandemic. We are all exhausted by it. The purpose for medical reasons, personal and/or religious beliefs, those are established in these guidelines as well. And so, today we are directing the department of public health, Dr. Galley is here and can answer questions, to move in this direction to establish consistent with well-established… [Inaudible 00:11:11].

Speaker 4: (11:11)
… Approval in November. Does this mean that this requirement could go into effect as early as January, or more likely, would it go to in effect either in the summer or the fall?

Governor Gavin Newsom: (11:22)
Oh, it’s a term after the FDA approval. So, that determination will be made once the FDA moves. And, we can’t predict that. So, one can speculate. But again, it’s the term following the FDA’s approval. As early as January 1st, as it relates to the first part of your question, look, we’re just putting out the guidelines, putting out the regulations. You heard from Senator Wiener, and he could speak perhaps to this more comprehensively, a willingness, not just to work with the executive branch, but the legislature has been leading in this space for many, many years. Well before I got into this office. And so, that is certainly something that one can anticipate, but I’ll… [inaudible 00:12:08]

Speaker 5: (12:08)
… I’m with ABC 7. So, given that as of today, because of the health care worker vaccine mandate, there are healthcare workers being placed on unpaid leaves of absences. It’s possible, people will be terminated as soon as October 15th, for certain healthcare systems. What do you anticipate, being the system, the consequences for school staff or school students who don’t get vaccinated and don’t have an accommodation?

Governor Gavin Newsom: (12:36)
Well, I mean the same consequences are in place on the basis of all kinds of other rules and regulations that are well-established, as it relates to requirement for employment. So, those are well-established procedures and processes. But, here’s the good news, we have some evidence in San Francisco Unified School District, overwhelmingly has succeeded in getting staff across the spectrum vaccinated, overwhelmingly. I think, Mr. Lieutenant, what you said north of 96%. So, I’d like to focus on the positive, not just the negative. We tend to highlight a little bit of the exceptions and we’ll work through those things.

Governor Gavin Newsom: (13:07)
But, you saw with our health care requirements that California’s fairing a little bit better than some of the other states. But as challenges present themselves, we’ll try to meet those challenges. But I believe, that on the basis of requirements that have been in place, and by the… [inaudible 00:13:22].

Governor Gavin Newsom: (13:22)
They’re getting people vaccinated, they’re actually ending this pandemic. They’re getting our economy moving again. They’re getting our kids educated. They’re making us healthier and safer. And if that’s the intention, to keep us healthy and safe, and get our economy moving, and get our kids back with all the benefits of being in-person instruction, then all I say is, let’s get this done and let’s get others to follow suit.

Ali Tadayon: (13:46)
Ali Tadayon with EdSource. Why is the state waiting for full FDA approval and not implementing the mandate sooner, while it has emergency use authorization ahead of the flu season?

Governor Gavin Newsom: (14:00)
We’ve got 1,050 school districts, we cut a lot of different points of views and opinions. A lot of regionality, a lot of distinctions. We thought this was the best and most appropriate next step for the state of California. And again, no one’s been shy. We have been standing still on this pandemic, quite the contrary. We’re continuing to be open to argument, interested in evidence. We want to see how things are manifesting in real-time. We’ll see how things go, but we felt the basis of the experts that guided this decision and the advisory committees that we have formed formally, and those that have been formed informally over the course of the last number of weeks, as we’ve been adjudicating the pros and cons of many different strategies, as it relates to the education efforts that we’re advancing here today, that full FDA approval was best for the purposes of the announcement today.

Jill Tucker: (14:53)
Jill Tucker, from the San Francisco Chronicle. Governor, can you clarify a little bit when staff, teachers, other workers from school districts will be required to get the vaccine? It sounded like you were talking a little fast. And so, I was trying to figure out exactly when each grade will have to be vaccinated. And that this in fact does apply to all adults in schools for in-person learning.

Governor Gavin Newsom: (15:15)
Yeah. So, after full FDA approval, in two phases, first phase being 7 to 12th grades, and on the basis of a question that I’m often asked, I have some friends with very young kids that are in seventh grade, some a little older, it’s on the basis of your age, some of the other vaccine requirements consistent with the rules and regulations that are well-established, that will be phase one. Concurrent with that phase, we anticipate getting all of our staff following a similar requirement. That said, on the basis of the… Well, all of us have been waiting for the Biden administration’s formal rulemaking, as it relates to his federal mandate for employees, private sector place, we’re waiting for that instruction. There’s a possibility, is what I was suggesting, that things could happen sooner. But the purposes of what we are putting out through this health order today, it shows that in parallel with that first phase, 7 to 12, second phase upon FDA approval is K to six.

Jill Tucker: (16:23)
Sorry. Real quick follow-up do you have to wait for the Biden’s rules? Or, could you just announce requirements for the staff at all schools?

Governor Gavin Newsom: (16:30)
Oh, we could announce… Again, and it’s important, and I’ve said this many times because it needs to be said, I said it a moment ago as well, no one’s standing still here. Our intention, it’s universal. Everybody, those that support things like this, people that don’t… We want to get this disease behind us, all of us do. So, if we see real demonstrable progress, or if we don’t, then we, on the basis of what’s happening in the epidemiology, what’s happening in real-time, relates to nature and spread of this disease, relates to the nature of these mutations, of which, there’re well over a dozen mutations we’ve been tracking consistently, not just the Delta virus on the basis of the seasonality, on the basis of those that are enthusiastic or leading even more aggressively, like LA Unified and others that have leaned into this. Some of the Bay Area districts, will make assessments, but on the basis of, again, where we are today, we feel this is appropriate.

Greg Lee: (17:31)
Governor, Greg Lee from KTVU. Two quick questions, are you aware of how many students this may affect in each of these groups? And then secondly, you’ve talked a lot about local control during this pandemic. We’ve seen a number of districts here in the Bay Area take this step in advance of the state. Can you talk about the calculus or what changed?

Governor Gavin Newsom: (17:49)
Well, nothing’s changed. We’ve been consistent from day one, localism. We support local efforts, compare and contrast to some of these big red states where they actually deny local decision. We actually encourage it. And, we’ve done that across the spectrum, throughout this entire pandemic, not just on the issue of vaccines, quite the contrary. On issues of masking on it, on issues of testing, on issues related to guidelines, and rules and regulations on social distancing, on physical distancing, and the like, we’ve had a local frame. Because we recognize in a state that’s larger than 21 states combined, that one size cannot fit all with one caveat.

Governor Gavin Newsom: (18:32)
And that is baseline expectations. And that’s what we’re providing here, is a baseline expectation. But, with the flexibility for these districts to move, if they feel that on the nature of this disease, and its epidemiology, and the nature of their unique characteristics and concerns, that they feel they need to move in a different timeline, we have allowed them that flexibility to move more expeditiously. As you’ve seen many different districts do. So, that’s the approach we’ve taken from the beginning of this pandemic. I think it’s paid dividends. Again, lowest case rates in America, rather consistently. Now, fourth lowest positivity rates in the country. And for a state as dense as California, a state as large is California, that’s progress.

Kathy Novak: (19:21)
Governor, Carla Mira, and a chief from POLITICO. As you make this landmark announcement today, with regard to schools, we notice that the state superintendent of schools of public instruction is not here with you, Tony Thurman. He’s been the focus of some reports from POLITICO about an office that is in complete dysfunction, and a toxic workplace, and many people leaving. Are you concerned about those reports? Do you intend to do anything about that? And are you concerned that the dysfunction in that office could affect your efforts, as you would tend to address COVID in the school?

Governor Gavin Newsom: (19:50)
Yeah, I’m going to be as transparent as I possibly can. I have been on the road signing bills. I just got back late last night. I was in Southern California. I have not had the opportunity to read the report, but I have had the opportunity of working with the superintendent, and it’s been a very good and constructive working relationship. And I look forward to maintaining that relationship for years to come. But, I am not privy to the details of those concerns. And, I have again, in the purposes of full transparency, that is on my desk, that information. And, that’s a subject that I look forward to having, or at least engaging in more conversation with our team, and with the superintendent directly.

Kathy Novak: (20:34)
Governor, Kathy Novak from KCBS Radio. On COVID vaccines for broader other groups, a federal judge ordered the state to come up with a plan for mandatory COVID vaccines for staff in California prisons. Given the outbreaks we saw in prisons, including San Quintin, would you support a mandate for prison staff?

Governor Gavin Newsom: (20:52)
Well, I’m proud of the fact California’s made tremendous progress. We haven’t been slow to move aggressively. In fact, I’ve put up some of our efforts in prison system, CDCR up against any states in terms of leaning in to getting our prisoners, as well as staff vaccinated. 76%, and this is as of yesterday, and forgive me, you caught me, the more I don’t have the benefit of today’s numbers, but 76% of all of our inmates have been fully vaccinated. And, 99% have been offered the vaccine. We were at 58% fully vaccinated of our staff. And, there are a large number of people that have received at least one dose, in addition to being fully vaccinated. We’ve taken it very, very seriously.

Governor Gavin Newsom: (21:40)
Today, and this is contemporary information, there’re 244 inmates that have tested positive for COVID-19. I want to put that in perspective, there’s roughly 100,000 inmates, roughly 244 have tested positive. I think, that gives you a demonstrable sense of our commitment to keep people healthy and safe. We can talk about what happened at San Quentin, the receiver over a year ago. That created quite a different… I mean, that’s a different conversation, but on the vaccine front, I think they’ve made progress. And, I appreciate the leadership there for taking it as seriously as they have.

Ginger Conejero: (22:22)
Hi Governor, Ginger Conejero, NBC Bay Area. I’ve been told that this is the last question. Just a couple key things governor. I know you mentioned consequences are still being worked through. Is there an idea when we can expect maybe more of a detailed approach to what happens if people or students don’t sign up for the mandate? And also, you mentioned the term following FDA approval. Is there a certain limit, amount of time, I mean, if the FDA approves it a week before, maybe the next term, is there a certain amount of time that families will have to get the students back there?

Governor Gavin Newsom: (23:09)
Yeah. And look, it will follow the next term. So, once the FDA is approved, we can work out that math. Again, as early as January 1st, as late as we believe July 1st, whichever comes first. As it relates to the rules and requirements, they’re well-established, there’s nothing novel about the consequences, quite the contrary, they’re well-established. And this is I think important, and in many ways, it’s the most predictable announcement, throughout this pandemic, isn’t it? Because in so many ways, it’s the most familiar conversation. Because, every parent has had this conversation since they brought their kids into school, public or private. They have to be vaccinated. There’s 10 vaccines, measles, mumps, rubella. I mean, I can go on, and on, and on. So, this is just another vaccine. And there are well-established requirements, and consequences, and we are consistent with those. As it relates to staff, accordingly. There are many professions where there are staffing requirements, and then there’s consequences that are well-established. So, we’re establishing with consistency, those rules and regulations.

Governor Gavin Newsom: (24:18)
Again, the one caveat was the… I thought, insightful question around the issue of personal beliefs, which came to the fore last year, in the legislature. And, that’s a subsequent legislative conversation. But for the purposes of this announcement, we include that. So, this is again familiar from my humble perspective, maybe it’s because I have four kids. So, it’s a very familiar conversation. And I think the consequences and outcomes… Again, we have real evidence, and I’m confident that we’re going to see real progress with the momentum that is already established in the state to get more people vaccinated, and the momentum that I hope this will continue to keep pace.

Governor Gavin Newsom: (25:03)
So with that, let me just again thank, Mr. Superintendent thank you for the privilege of having me back here, at my old home district. Senator, thank you for incredible leadership and stewardship. Thank you for your comments and your willingness again, which is implicit and explicit, in your words implicit, I think, some of the questions, to work with us in a collaborative spirit in the next legislative season, in session, to work through some of the more nuances and details of the application of this health order.

Governor Gavin Newsom: (25:33)
But I’m grateful that we’re here today. I’m grateful to be in a district that has gotten things done, and is getting things done, as it relates to keeping their kids safe, and in-person without the fear of outbreaks as a consequence of putting a lid because of these vaccines and their vaccination efforts. So it seems appropriate we are here in San Francisco. And, I’m looking forward to applying this requirement, and look forward to working with districts all up and down the state, and parents all up and down the state, over the course of the next few months, as the FDA moves towards final approval. Thank you all very, very much.

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