Jul 26, 2021
Gavin Newsom Press Conference Transcript: Announces Vaccine, Testing Mandate for State Employees
California Gov. Gavin Newsom and state officials held a press conference on July 26, 2021 to announce new COVID-19 vaccine and testing requirements for some state employees and healthcare workers. Read the transcript of the briefing here.
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Speaker 1: (00:00)
… measures that promote vaccination across our state. And for health care organizations, we bear a real special responsibility to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our patients when they come to our facilities, of our workforce, our essential for caring for individuals. And of course the safety and wellbeing of our communities at large. And there is no better way than to prevent catching COVID than to get vaccinated. So, today we’re all here gathered with the message that the health and safety of our communities and the country really depends on those of us who can get vaccinated to get vaccinated. So, thank you for joining us here in this important continuing conversation of what we can do now and to continue the pace of vaccination. So, please now next up, I’d like to invite Mayor Libby Shaaf to say a few words. Mask.
Mayor Libby Schaaf: (01:04)
Good morning and welcome to Oakland. We’re always so proud when Governor Gavin Newsom chooses Oakland as the location to make significant announcements. Of course, we are also proud to be home to Kaiser Permanente, an incredible national example of what holistic health looks like. Throughout the pandemic, Governor Newsom has inspired other leaders, other heads of companies with his values driven decisive actions. And today’s announcement is another example of that. To take bold steps, to ensure the health and safety of California’s employees and the public they serve is what a leader should do in this moment. We recognize that people are tired and have sacrificed so much during the course of this pandemic, but our work is not done. Today we rededicate ourselves and acknowledge the troubling surge that we have seen in the new variants that now are lifting infection rates.
Mayor Libby Schaaf: (02:19)
Of course, we also need to be proud that it is decisive, values driven actions that the governor has made in the past that has allowed California, the country’s largest state to also be the state with the highest percentage of vaccinated residents. That is an incredible accomplishment. So, Governor Newsom, I know that your announcement today will inspire employers to do the right thing for their workers and who they serve. I know the city of Oakland is inspired by your example, and we, as an employer, will getting to work immediately to explore adopting similar policies. With that, I’m excited to introduce the assembly member for this district, an incredible leader around health equity, and that is Assembly member Buffy Wicks.
Buffy Wicks: (03:23)
Thank you so much for being here today. Thank you Kaiser Permanente for hosting us, and welcome Governor Newsom to the best assembly district in the state of California, assembly district 15. California has been leading the nation on vaccination rates, which is critical as to how we are going to combat this virus. Fundamentally is ensuring that everyone who can, will get vaccinated. We’re also seeing alarming concern around the Delta variant and the increase of the Delta variant. And if you look at the hospitalization rates and the death rates, it’s almost 100% folks who are not vaccinated. And we don’t want to go back to where we were. You know what we just went through the last year and a half, with school closures and businesses closing. We do not want to go back to that. And the pathway for us to get out of this pandemic is through an increased rate in vaccinations.
Buffy Wicks: (04:13)
Unfortunately, we’re seeing a little bit of vaccination rates leveling out. So, it’s time we take bold steps and bold action to ensure that we continue to increase our vaccination rates. And that’s why I applaud Governor Newsom’s announcement today, and really call upon a cultural shift for all of us to ensure that we’re getting vaccinated, which means asking our employers to require proof of vaccination, and ensuring that we continue to fulfill this drumbeat of making sure that people get vaccinated. And I come to you as an assembly member, but I also come to you as a mom. I have a four year old and a little girl who’s turning one today. I survived that first year yet again, and they can’t get vaccinated. And my four year old starting TK at Oakland Unified School District in a couple of weeks, and she’s vulnerable, right?
Buffy Wicks: (05:03)
She can’t get vaccine. So, I want to make sure I’m going to protect her and all the other children out there who can’t get vaccinated, by ensuring that everyone who can’t gets vaccinated. Our teachers, our state workers, our municipalities, our private sector employers. And we’re seeing this shift, right? Three counties last week, Contra Costa being one of them, San Francisco and Santa Clara, all issued guidance encouraging employers to do this. We’re seeing leadership here by our great Governor who I think has been on the forefront in this country of leading on this pandemic, and his actions speak louder than words. He’s made tough choices. He’s made tough decisions, and he’s led this state and he will continue to do so. So, I’m proud to be here, and I’m also very excited to announce again, in my opinion, the best state Senator that we have in the state of California, my colleague, Nancy Skinner.
Senator Nancy Skinner: (06:02)
Good morning, I’m state Senator Nancy Skinner. Yes, this is my district. Thank you Buffy. It is the best district. I’m very glad to be here at Kaiser today. This is where I got my vaccination, and I got that vaccination as soon as I could. So, as soon as my age was eligible in February, I was here and I got vaccinated. Now, Buffy just spoke to you, Assembly member Wick as a mother. I’m a new grandmother. My six week old grand baby cannot get vaccinated, and she’s a risk with this Delta variant. This particular variant is far more contagious. Now, those of us who are vaccinated, there’s a slight chance we could get it. Yes, there are breakthrough infections, but we’re not likely to be hospitalized or die. However, the less of us were vaccinated or the fewer people that are vaccinated, the more likely we could have more variants like this Delta variant.
Senator Nancy Skinner: (07:12)
Right now, we’re seeing that it is not very harmful to a vaccinated person, but how do we know what the next variant is going to be like? Look, a virus is a biological entity that the more that it can prosper in a host, and we’re the host, the more it can create variants. Mutate and create variants. And when it does so, they can be like this Delta one, far more contagious and more dangerous. Why do we want that? None of us want that. We want to be out of this pandemic, and the vaccination is the way to get out of it. So, I’ve been so proud that California, under the leadership of our governor, Governor Newsom has…
Senator Nancy Skinner: (08:02)
… Leadership of our governor, Governor Newsom has, as our mayor pointed, out so far the highest vaccination rate of those eligible to get vaccinated have had one shot at least. But we need everyone to be vaccinated. So it is so important what the governor is going to announce today. And the leadership he’s taken so far is why our economy is doing great and why we’ve had lower death rate compared to other states.
Senator Nancy Skinner: (08:32)
But we have our great businesses are opening up. Our restaurants are open again, our bars, some of our concert venues want to open. All of us want to start enjoying life like that. And if everyone is vaccinated, we can and it will not only prevent deaths, but it will lessen the likelihood of more dangerous variants. And that is so, so important. So I very, very proudly introduce now Governor Newsom, who will make the announcement and Governor Newsom.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (09:07)
Senator Nancy Skinner: (09:07)
Governor Gavin Newsom: (09:12)
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Janet, thank you for having us and Madam Mayor, great to be back here in Oakland. And thank you for all your leadership. Thank you to the assemblywoman, happy birthday to that little one-year-old and to the Senator, thank you for all of your extraordinary work particularly leading our efforts to advance record investments to address the health and safety of Californians.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (09:35)
Look, we are mindful that we are here at an important juncture in the history of this pandemic, this disease. And while it’s absolutely true and I appreciated the comments that California is leading the nation in terms of doses administered, over 43 and a half million doses have been administered in this state, 17.6 million more than any other state. We are mindful of the increase in positivity rate. We’re mindful of the efficiency of the Delta virus. We’re mindful of the increase in case rates and hospitalization rates in this state because too many people have chosen to live with this virus.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (10:11)
We’re at a point in this epidemic, this pandemic where choice, individual’s choice not to get vaccinated is now impacting the rest of us in a profound and devastating and deadly way. That choice has led to an increase in case rates, growing concern around increase in death rates and self-evidently around hospitalization rates. Not just here in the state of California that has a 5.3% positivity rate, that’s half of Texas. Roughly a third of states like Florida, but across the rest of the nation. We’re mindful of our responsibility to do more and to do better.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (10:51)
We’re mindful of our responsibility to lead by example as well. California is the first state to do a stay-at-home order. It wasn’t without its critics. It continues to address the issue by asserting itself, this state by leaning in and we will continue to do that as we advance today’s new cause and that’s to address the concerns we have in our healthcare facilities throughout the state of California. But as it relates to leading by example, 246,000 Californians are state employees. 246, 000 Californians should be vaccinated. And if they’re not vaccinated and cannot verify that they’ve been vaccinated, we are requiring that they get tested.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (11:43)
California’s committed to vaccination, verification and/or testing on a weekly basis. We’re not stopping just with state employees. Today we’re also announcing partnerships that include those like Kaiser, private sector now stepping up, organizations, representing physicians, dentists, dialysis clinics stepping up. Private sector clinics are committing to the same. In healthcare settings, they’re committed not only to verification of vaccines, but also testing. And that testing cadence will increase to twice a week in high-risk, highly vulnerable settings.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (12:24)
What are those? Well, not surprising, acute care settings, skilled nursing facilities would be among them. Our application implementation of these new requirements that will go out under a health order in the state of California began on August 9th and are implemented through August 23rd. And we hope this example of public and private leadership as it relates to vaccine verifications, vaccine mandates and/or mandated testing one to two times a week with also commensurate PPP or rather PPE obligations as it relates to protective gear N95 respirator masks, as an example, will lead to others to replicate this example in the private sector.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (13:12)
You’re seeing that in private businesses and enterprises from Bay Area businesses, the bar businesses that are deciding to come together and require some form of verification. And we encourage that, encourage that in the private sector across the spectrum, not just in these healthcare settings. But as it relates to healthcare settings in the state of California, dental settings, doctors, all of these other acute centers, as well as congregate centers that include jails, homeless shelters.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (13:43)
We are now asking for that verification no longer requiring a rather encouraging self attestation. This is a requirement to prove you’ve been vaccinated and if you have not, you’ll be tested. And so we are sincere in our belief and desire that we need to step things up at this stage of the pandemic. Our projections are sobering. Our projections are all over the course of the next number of weeks will show a significant increase in hospitalizations if we continue down this path. Our projections will put additional pressure on systems like Kaiser’s and systems all throughout the state.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (14:24)
Here’s the good news. Last week, we saw a 16% increase in the number of people getting their first dose or receiving a J&J vaccine. A 16% increase in vaccinations last week first doses representing a little over 255,000 shots administered. We’re seeing as well an increase in people getting vaccinated in what we refer to as the Healthy Places Index Quartile 1. And forgive me, I lost 99% of you, but for the 1% that understand what I’m talking about, that’s the most vulnerable zip codes in the state of California. Those are the communities most at-risk, the communities most impacted by this pandemic. That’s around our equity frame, our equity metric.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (15:08)
We have actually seen a seven week consistent increase relative to other quartiles of vaccination rates. And that also includes the Latino community of which we have seen a very modest uptick, an encouraging uptick in vaccination rates as well. Look, I am not naive and I’ll close, that there are many people still vaccine hesitant. And that’s why the state put $40 million up. We announced this last week in a CalVax grant program to encourage family practices, family physicians to have a private setting where they can address that anxiety and that hesitancy.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (15:48)
But we are exhausted, respectfully exhausted by the ideological prism that too many Americans are living under. We’re exhausted by the Ron Johnsons and the Tucker Carlsons. We’re exhausted by the Marjorie Taylor Greenes. We’re exhausted-
Governor Gavin Newsom: (16:03)
Johnson’s and the Tucker Carlson’s were exhausted by the Marjorie Taylor Greens, we’re exhausted by the right wing echo chamber that has been perpetuating misinformation around the vaccine and its efficacy and safety. We’re exhausted by the politicalization of this pandemic. And that includes mask wearing, it has been equated to the Holocaust. It’s disgraceful, it’s unconstitutional, it’s unconscionable and it needs to be called out. Increasingly it is being called out. And I want to acknowledge that and I want to applaud particularly Republican leaders that have had the courage to call that out. And I hope more and more will do the same. It’s a choice to live with this virus. And with all due respect, you don’t have a choice to go out and drink and drive and put everybody else’s lives at risk. That’s the equivalent of this moment with the deadliness and efficiency of the Delta virus. You’re putting other people’s innocent people’s lives at risk.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (17:01)
You’re putting businesses at risk. You’re putting at rest to the ability to educate our kids by getting them back in person full time for in-person instruction. No more Zoom schools. We want to keep our economy moving. We want our small businesses on their feet. Your choice not to get vaccinated and to listen to these pundits that are profiteering of misinformation. Intentionally misinforming comes at a real societal cost. We need to be more clear about that and we need to call that out. And so we are doing just that in our state and increasingly we’re seeing that with leaders of all political stripes across this country and that is indeed encouraging. And so it’s in that frame and that spirit of some optimism about our capacity to deal with this, we can deal with this disease in a month. If everybody that has not gotten vaccinated got vaccinated, we can extinguish this disease. You won’t be asking about mask mandates. It’s the wrong question.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (18:17)
Question is why haven’t we followed the science and why aren’t we finishing the jobs? 75% of Californians, 74.8% of all eligible Californians have received at least one dose, but there’s 25% people that haven’t. And that’s our focus here today. Lead by example, encourage these healthcare settings to do the same in the private sector not just the public sector and to start being a little bit more clear about the lines that need to be drawn. Calling out the failure of too many that have megaphones that are abusing that privilege and that right by spewing misinformation while the entire time they’re sitting there working for organizations that require vaccinations to be administered and have received life-saving vaccinations themselves. That’s a hell of a thing. And so forgive me for being pointed, but it’s time we call that question and call some of these people out. And that’s again the spirit that brings me here today, a spirit of focus and energy that I hope will get us to the other side of this pandemic once and for all. And with that we’re happy here to take any questions.
Governor, Gregory KTVU. Assembly member Wix alluded to this about schools beginning to open in a couple of weeks. I know this does not include teachers, but are there conversations with public education about perhaps a verification for teachers and perhaps students moving forward especially those that are over 12?
Governor Gavin Newsom: (19:50)
Well, as you know and I appreciate your recognition in the question that our teachers are not state employees. As a consequence they are not included as you suggest in the guidelines going out here today. But we are encouraging and we’re hopeful that more school-based sites, more opportunity as you know to prioritize as we have since the beginning of the distribution of the vaccinations, prioritizing our caregivers, our teachers included in paraprofessionals. It’s not just our teachers, it’s the bus drivers, it’s the folks out there doing the hard work behind the scenes, including custodial staff. That they have access to free, safe vaccines that continues. Everybody by the way has access to free safe vaccines regardless of their immigration status. It’s just a reminder to everybody of the availability and the increasing ubiquity of access. It relates to guidelines in the schools. We’ll continue to work with our local districts and encourage more vaccination take ups. But so far we’ve just required mask wearing and a series of other guidelines that have been published and updated recently as it relates to this fall session.
Harriet Rowan: (21:01)
Hi governor Newsome, I’m Harriet Rowan with the Mercury News. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the ideas or discussion around having a more broad vaccine mandate. And then also are there next steps of this mandate that you might implement if the problem continues?
Governor Gavin Newsom: (21:20)
I appreciate the question. The announcement here today is broad, it’s significant. I believe we may be the first state at scale to not only require for all state employees, but to engage public private partnership with all health care facilities in the state more broadly. We have made this crystal clear, there’s one thing that’s been absolutely consistent throughout this pandemic is that we’re open argument. We’re interested in evidence and we’re not ideological in terms of next steps and decisions on the basis of one thing we’ve consistently said and that’s the facts on the ground science, evidence, the epidemiology, the nature of spread, this disease, the variants.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (22:01)
Which we’re not just tracking the Delta variant, there’s over a dozen other variants and mutations that we’re tracking. And that’s another point that was made by I believe Senator Skinner appropriately. The longer we wait to extinguish this disease, the more likely that we will be facing another variant, another mutation that may not have well, where the vaccines may not be as effective in addressing that mutation as the vaccines are effective today of addressing the Delta variant. And so again, encouraging folks to consider the opportunity to take this as a chance to consider their own employee employer relationships. And encourage the private sector and employers down the state to consider mirroring some of the efforts we’re announcing here today for state
Luz Pena: (22:59)
Luz Pena with ABC7 news. What are some of the consequences of refusing to get vaccinated? Could state employees lose their jobs?
Governor Gavin Newsom: (23:06)
We have existing MOUs and the process and the procedures as it relates to workplace rules. This is just going to be added into that. And so you’ll look through the bargaining units, you’ll look through the MOUs, you look at the language. And there’s processes and protocols that are well-established while in place. This is a requirement to either get vaccinated or to get tested once two days a week, surgical masks in some cases, respiratory masks in other cases and other settings. And those are all part of the health order that’s going out and implementation process that will occur over a few weeks, beginning August 9th to August 23rd.
Luz Pena: (23:41)
So is California also considering to reinstate the mask mandate as the Delta Variant spreads?
Governor Gavin Newsom: (23:46)
Vast majority of Californians are living under a jurisdiction, including the Bay Area where we are today that recommends it and or mandates in some parts of the state, particularly two notable parts in Southern California. Our focus is on vaccinations, so there’ll be no need if we could-
Governor Gavin Newsom: (24:03)
… vaccinations, so there’ll be no need if we can extinguish this virus and we can put this behind us. And so I encourage folks to get vaccinated. That’s our focus and that’s the announcement we’re making today.
Speaker 2: (24:13)
Last question regarding schools. Is the state also considering a hybrid program as the Delta variant spreads?
Governor Gavin Newsom: (24:19)
We want our kids back in person full-time for instruction. The social emotional consequences of being on Zoom school are pronounced and profound, ask any parent, I’m included. The fits and starts ford might kill children. The fits and starts, going in, stopping, starting, outbreaks, stopping again has been very impactful, very profound. We need our kids back safely in-person instruction. We were among the first states to require mask mandate. Was very pleased to see the American Academy of Pediatrics announced a week or so after our announcement, that that was the right decision and encouraging it for other states as well.
Melissa Colorado: (24:58)
Good morning, Governor. Melissa Colorado with NBC Bay Area News. Specifically when it comes to the private sector, how is the state going to enforce this mandate?
Governor Gavin Newsom: (25:08)
Well, as it relates to our partners, we’ve done it in the spirit of partnership. We’ve worked with leadership, for example, here at Kaiser, worked with the leadership, the California Medical Association, many other statewide representative organizations that have been encouraged by this direction. Again, this is for private healthcare settings. And so it’s in that spirit of engagement and collaboration that we’re making the announcement today. As it relates to the state and state employees, and 246,000 strong, those requirements are easier to enforce. Again, the goal here is to encourage other businesses, other employers outside the healthcare settings to consider similar strategies to get vaccine verifications.
Governor Gavin Newsom: (25:53)
And again, if you choose not to or you have issues that obviously would require some consideration and exemption, which is completely understandable, and one has to respect that from a religious liberty perspective, or auto-immune issues that require other courses of strategies to deal with this pandemic, those obviously will be respected as well. But beyond that, you’ll be required to not only be vaccinated and or required to be tested one to two days a week, which we think is appropriate, because we believe that a healthy workplace creates a healthy state, and we believe this is the next frame of focus should be at least in our state. And we hope see similar actions, though I see New York City did a version of this, maybe not as far as it relates to the private sector healthcare settings, we are encouraged to see now other cities and other states we hope soon to be following these footsteps.
Speaker 3: (26:52)
Speaker 4: (26:52)
Governor, for you or for Dr. Ghaly, who I see standing back there, you talked about the 16% increase in the first vaccinations last week. Can you talk about the pace as a trend overall that would warrant such action that we’re doing today?
Governor Gavin Newsom: (27:05)
I’ll let Dr. Ghaly, just because you brought him up, answer that question. He came all the way up from LA.
Dr. Ghaly: (27:15)
Thanks. Certainly 16% increase week over week is impressive and important. We want to see that trend continue. We need to see that trend continue. I’ll remind you, we’ve been talking today about the number of Californians who’ve gotten that first shot. If you’re one of those Californians that still needs to get your second shot, please do. You’ve done an important step, taken an important step to getting yourself and your family protected. But in the face of Delta, we know that that second shot is very, very important. So please go ahead and get that second shot. If you are hesitant, if you said, ah, my arm hurt, I had a little bit of a fever, humble perspective, yes. But that’s a small price to pay to be protected against what is a definitely more contagious, more sticky, more spreadable, call it what you want variant that we’re dealing with.
Dr. Ghaly: (28:08)
And we’re going to continue to see these variants pop up. That’s why the governor’s point, Senator Skinner’s point, all of our elected leaders who’ve spoken today’s point, that getting our state vaccinated is going to be our way through this. And that’s going to be critical and important. I applaud the efforts of our local partners at the county city level. Healthcare partners really led by the governor and the state, making sure that we’re talking effectively, getting down on our knees as healthcare providers, as community leaders and talking to individuals one by one about what it’s going to take to keep that 16% week over week increase up. I’m certain that people who were saying, ah, I’ll wait a little bit longer to get vaccinated, are realizing that the Delta variant has really changed the game a bit.
Dr. Ghaly: (28:58)
This is not, as somebody said, your grandmother’s COVID anymore. It’s not the COVID we dealt with a year ago. This is a very different beast. And so now is the time to get that and see the 16% hit 20%, 25% and continue to get all Californians vaccinated so we can get through this once and for all.
Speaker 5: (29:18)
Final word. Thank you all very much.