With California approaching a key COVID-19 vaccine milestone, Governor Gavin Newsom said Wednesday that business restrictions could be loosened for restaurants and amusement parks as early as this weekend in the state’s largest counties.
From a vaccination clinic in Los Angeles County, Newsom told reporters the state by Friday would clear a goal of administering 2 million doses to people from the state’s poorest and most vulnerable ZIP codes.
Once the equity target Newsom set last week is met, the state will ease the criteria of its tiered-reopening framework and make it possible for counties like L.A., San Diego, Orange, and Sacramento to resume indoor dining, professional sports, and further school reopening efforts.
Citing a sustained drop in new infections and hospitalizations, Newsom said the Golden State is finally in a position to jumpstart its economic rebound stymied by a harrowing past three months of its pandemic fight.
“We’re in a completely different place than we were six and eight weeks ago,” Newsom said. “L.A. will be the big beneficiary of this new metric that likely will be met by Friday.”
The Democratic governor said he hopes Southern California residents will be excited about the loosened controls and that more relief is headed to other parts of the state during next week’s pandemic update.
The announcement comes as California continues to see encouraging pandemic trends and more school reopenings.
At the height of the pandemic, the state saw more than 50,000 new cases daily with a double-digit positivity rate, but on Wednesday counties reported a total of 6,400 infections and a combined 2.3% rate. The improvement has meanwhile coincided with a rush of vaccines, as the state has now administered nearly 11 million doses since December.
And after a year of shuttered classrooms, Newsom claimed more than 8,000 schools have either reopened for in-person instruction or have scheduled reopening dates. The figure includes the state’s largest school district Los Angeles Unified, which reached a tentative deal with its teachers union late Tuesday to resume classes on a hybrid model next month.
“As we have both stated for some time, the right way to reopen schools must include the highest standard of Covid safety in schools, continued reduction of the virus in the communities we serve, and access to vaccinations for school staff,” the district and its teachers union said in a statement late Tuesday. “This agreement achieves that shared set of goals.”
Newsom applauded the deal and said he hopes California’s more than 1,000 school districts and accompanying teachers unions will take advantage of the $6.6 billion stimulus recently approved by the Legislature, and consider extending the school year to make up for lost time.
“This is real progress and it’s very encouraging,” said the father of four school-aged children.
One night after giving a primetime State of the State address that could have been confused for a campaign speech, the governor facing a likely recall election continued to paint a rosy future for the nation’s largest state and its economy.
“I said it last night, we’re determined and resilient — this state’s poised for an incredible recovery,” said Newsom, adding that he was particularly confident in the hospitality industry’s ability to bounce back from the mandated closures.
Newsom’s optimism was echoed Wednesday by economists at UCLA who predicted the speed of California’s economic recovery in coming months will outpace the rest of the nation.
The quarterly economic forecast by UCLA’s Anderson School of Management says employment growth will likely start slow in California due to the severity of its pandemic orders, but will skyrocket once Newsom finally gives the green light. The forecast predicts the country and state’s recovery could outpace that of the Great Recession.
The outlook predicts California’s monthly unemployment — which peaked at a record 16.4% this past May — will average around 7% in 2021 and plummet to nearly pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2023.
Both the UCLA economists and Newsom acknowledged the state’s recovery continues to hinge on how fast the state of 40 million can get fully vaccinated.
While the state’s three-week allotment from the federal government remains flat, Newsom said vaccine supply could “flood” into California over the next two months. He claimed supply is the only thing holding the state back and that it could wipe out its entire weekly supply in less than a day.
“We’re still in a constrained environment, but things really start to move next month and the month after,” Newsom said.
— By Nick Cahill, CNS