LONG BEACH, CA — Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday lashed out at what he called “right-wing” pundits and news outlets for spreading misinformation about the coronavirus vaccine, but he stopped short of endorsing vaccine passports, statewide mask mandates or further health restrictions.
The governor expressed frustration with lagging COVID-19 vaccination rates during his remarks while touring businesses in Long Beach. But he also signaled the limitations of his embattled response to surging coronavirus case rates and hospitalizations. Newsom left the door open to further restrictions down the road. He also left it to individual businesses to decide if vaccine passports are right for them.
Requiring people to carry a “vaccine passport” is “unnecessary if we continue to see increases in vaccinations,” Newsom said. “We subscribe to a point of view that local businesses can make determinations for themselves of what’s appropriate.”
California has one of the best COVID- 19 vaccination rates in the country. But the Golden State is far from reaching herd immunity.
The coronavirus delta variant, meanwhile, now represents 60 percent of California cases, and it’s driving outbreaks in several parts of the state — including Los Angeles.
Some 76.6 percent of California adults have received at least one dose, and about 75 percent of residents 12 and over have reached that milestone, he said. The state is stepping up its work with community groups, churches and local medical practices to encourage vaccinations among those who remain hesitant, he added.
Newsom blamed “right-wing” pundits for spreading misinformation and contributing to vaccine hesitancy.
“We are trying to combat the misinformation on these right-wing shows, these right-wing pundits,” Newsom said. “They are simply ideological about this. It was nice to see one of them last night or two nights ago finally acknowledge the truth about science and the efficacy of these vaccines,” Newsom said, referring to pro-vaccine comments this week by Fox News host Sean Hannity.
“We need to see more of that,” Newsom added. “We need to see more courage of conviction for those that have privately gotten the vaccine but are out there preaching somehow that these vaccines are unsafe or leading the public astray on that.”
The governor acknowledged the recent indoor mask-wearing mandate instituted in Los Angeles County in response to surging case numbers, as well as an overall jitteriness about additional health orders.
More than half of California residents are now in jurisdictions with at least some form of mask-wearing recommendation. Mask-wearing will be mandatory in schools this fall, Newsom said.
But Californians wouldn’t have to worry about further restrictions if millions of people would step up and get vaccinated, Newsom said.
“The most important thing we can do to get this pandemic behind us is to get vaccinated,” he said. “I want to encourage everybody that hasn’t gotten vaccinated to get vaccinated. I also encourage you if you’re hesitant to get vaccinated to consider the words of those that are in ICUs and hospitals right now. The universal regret. Listen to their words, not mine. The universal regret is, ‘Could have, would have. I wish I had gotten vaccinated.'”
City News Service and Patch Staffer Paige Austin contributed to this report.