California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has said he supported schools safely reopening, advocated for doors opening immediately during an interview with ABC News Sunday, saying, “At the end of the day, we can do this now as we administer more doses. Yes, prioritizing our teachers, more vaccines in people’s arms.”
He said when it comes to young children stepping back into schools, he’s “hoping to do it right away,” using the example of over a thousand California schools already open with minimal transmission.
“Let’s not use perfect as an excuse to safely, thoughtfully, judiciously, strategically get our youngest kids back in first," Newsom said.
The governor's push to reopen schools comes at a time when COVID-19 rates in Los Angeles County are the lowest they’ve been in months, with many of the state’s intensive care units back to pre-winter capacity.
Newsom said California’s current 3.1% coronavirus positivity rate was currently a quarter of Texas’ and half of Florida’s.
The governor has been caught between two groups, teachers unions pushing back on opening classrooms without specific safety protocols and vaccinations and those seeking to recall him over the state's COVID response. Newsom faces a potential recall effort moving closer to make the ballot, and Republicans are vowing to challenge him on school closures in the state.
“School districts have made very clear that they do not have the resources to make sure the proper ventilation is in place, testing, PPE, and the other multi-layered safety measures.” the California Teachers Association said in a statement earlier this month.
"We have to get shots in the arms of employees who are required to report in-person and before the students return to campus," California Teachers Association President E. Toby Boyd said. "Then, pivot to vaccinating those who phase back into in-person teaching and learning.”
Newsom committed to putting aside 10% of vaccinations for teachers and school staff on Friday, but did not say he believed it should be mandatory for teachers to get both vaccine doses to return to school, calling it simply, "optimal.”
Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and businessman John Cox vowed to challenge Newsom if the recall effort makes the ballot. Both men have made reopening schools a central part of their current campaign against him.
"Since I announced my candidacy, Newsom started saying schools should open, but it’s too little too late," Faulconer said at a press conference last Wednesday. "Gavin Newsom’s failed leadership has left an entire generation of kids falling behind.”
Newsom “Kept our kids out of school and kept them out of activity, which I think is inflicting untold amounts of harm on our children,” Cox told ABC News San Francisco station KGO.
On the last point, Newsom seemingly agrees with Cox, reflecting to ABC News how he would have handled no in-person classrooms as a kid for an entire year, citing a learning disability he had as a child, saying, “I wouldn’t be here and this is why it's so personal.”