Newsom Hails SD Vaccination Efforts, Hints At Pending Advance To Orange Tier
Gov. Gavin Newsom toured a COVID-19 vaccination site in City Heights Friday, hailing San Diego for leading the way in the administration of vaccine doses, particularly in its efforts in hard-hit, underserved communities.
Newsom hailed the city and county for "leading the way in the state of California in terms of doses administered, in terms of meeting not just the ... broad strokes on the issue of equity, but actually manifesting them by doing the hard work of getting into communities like this, working with trusted messengers, working with community-based organizations, partnering with folks ... to do the work of making sure that we are actually delivering on our promises on equity."
The governor also referenced the continuing statewide effort to deliver vaccines to the lowest-income communities hardest hit by the pandemic, saying nearly 3.7 million doses have been administered in such areas. He said the state will hit 4 million by next week, "which will allow cities and counties like San Diego to move more quickly through these tiers, ultimately getting to a green tier that we'll be talking a lot more about next week."
San Diego County remains in the red tier of the state's Blueprint for a Safer Economy, which governs the reopening of businesses and recreational activities. The county's rate of daily new COVID-19 infections is still too high to advance to the less-restrictive orange tier. But when the state reaches the 4 million milestone of vaccinations in low-income communities, it will change the orange-tier threshold, making it easier for the county to advance — perhaps as early as next week.
Moving to the orange tier would allow the county to lift capacity restrictions at retail stores, increase capacity at businesses such as restaurants, movie theaters and fitness centers, while also increasing the number of fans permitted to attend Padres games at Petco Park.
"We see a bright light, not just a light, we see a bright light at the end of this tunnel," Newsom said. "We are now moving through these tiers. We had 13 counties this week move to less restrictive tiers. We're seeing businesses reopen. Over 9,000 of our 11,000 schools have either reopened for in-person instruction or have announced a date to reopen for in-person instruction."
"We have committed over $2.5 billion ... in grants, not loans, to small businesses — 77% of the loans that went out in our first round have gone to women-owned businesses, businesses in under-served communities and businesses that are represented by African-American and Latino business leaders. We are committed to the cause ... of advancing equity."
But Newsom also stressed the need for people to overcome vaccine hesitancy, preaching the safety of the vaccinations and the need for more people sign up for their doses.
"If you are 50 and over, please, go take the time, prepare to get a vaccine," he said. "We're not going to get to herd immunity, we're not going to get back that semblance of normalcy unless we get more people vaccinated, unless we prepare over the course of the next number of weeks to get to that place we all are looking forward to. We need everybody that is eligible, that's willing, to participate."
City Heights is home to thousands of undocumented older people, many of whom were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, Newsom removed a budget allocation for expanding Medi-Cal to that community.
Even though he said the state is poised for a full economic recovery, he did not commit to including that expansion in May, when the legislature revisits the budget.
"We’re in a completely different place, because of our budget surplus and the support coming from the federal government, but I’m also mindful a lot of that is one-time," Newsom said in response to a question from KPBS. "And we have to be mindful as we prioritize and set aside those investments, how we do that."
City Heights Councilmember Sean Elo-Rivera toured the vaccination site with the governor and also volunteered there on Friday. He said that the lack of a permanent vaccination site in City Heights shouldn’t stand in the way of access to the vaccine.
"What it really comes down to is saying, 'these people are having a hard time accessing the vaccine,' and asking the question of what we need to do to cut through the barriers they’re facing," he said. "Whether that means transportation, whether that means historical discrimination and very good reasons for distrust of the medical field, and being really intentional about the outreach necessary in order to do that.”
The vaccination event in City Heights will be followed this weekend by a similar event in Barrio Logan over the weekend.