- The Washington Times
Thursday, August 12, 2021

California Gov. Gavin Newsom handed recall supporters a highly charged political issue with his latest pandemic mandate, and not surprisingly, they’re running with it.

Los Angeles radio show host Larry Elder, who leads the field of GOP recall candidates, said he would rescind the California Public Health Department’s first-in-the-nation order announced Wednesday requiring all public school staff to show proof of vaccination or submit to weekly testing for the novel coronavirus.

“Gov. Elder will reverse this order,” the Republican candidate tweeted. “Encouraging vaccination is fine. Government mandating it is not.”

In addition to the school vaccine mandate, which took effect Thursday, the state has recently ordered COVID-19 vaccine verification for state employees; full vaccinations for health care workers by Sept. 30, and universal masking in K-12 schools.

“To give parents confidence that their children are safe as schools return to full, in-person learning, we are urging all school staff to get vaccinated. Vaccinations are how we will end this pandemic,” Mr. Newsom said in a Wednesday statement. “As a father, I look forward to the start of the school year and seeing all California kids back in the classroom.”

Republican businessman John Cox, who ran for governor against Mr. Newsom in 2018, called the Democrat a “power-hungry politician who wants to control every aspect of people’s lives.

“Now he is effectively threatening people’s employment if they don’t do what he tells them to,” said Mr. Cox. “90 percent of teachers are already vaccinated. This is just further government intrusion into people’s personal lives. We must draw the line and protect people’s freedoms.”

He called for giving parents more choice on schools, allowing them to “choose the best school and rules for their family,” while former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer tweeted that “mandates are not the solution.”

Republican Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, another recall candidate, tweeted that “Gavin Newsom needs to stop using teachers and nurses as political pawns. No other state has these mandates. A vote for the Recall is a vote for basic decency.”

Mr. Newsom said the restrictions were needed to fight the uptick in COVID-19 cases fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant, but the measures also present a political risk for the Democratic governor just one month before the Sept. 14 recall.

The Recall Gavin Newsom effort launched last year by the California Patriot Coalition started slowly but took off as outrage built over the governor’s handling of the pandemic, ultimately turning in 2.1 million signatures, well above the 1.5 million valid signatures required to force the recall.

Mr. Newsom sought to contrast his COVID-19 policies against those of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has barred mask and vaccine mandates, and pointed out that Mr. Cox has said he would model his approach on that of the Republican DeSantis.

“This is what’s at stake on September 14th,” tweeted Mr. Newsom “The progress we’ve made on vaccines could go out the window … masks could be banned — not an exaggeration to say lives are literally on the line.”

He concluded: “Vote NO on the Republican-led recall. There’s too much at stake.”

In California, new COVID-19 infections have been rising since late June while deaths have flattened after peaking in January. The state on Thursday reported 10,450 additional cases, or 23.7 per 100,000 people, and 61 deaths, or 0.04 per 100,000.

Those backing the governor’s vaccine strategy include the state’s two largest teachers unions, the California State PTA, the Association of California School Administrators, and the Service Employees International Union [SEIU].

Schools must be in full compliance with the vaccine verification program by Oct. 15.

“There’s no substitute for in-person instruction, and California will continue to lead the nation in keeping students and staff safe while ensuring fully open classrooms,” said Dr. Tomás J. Aragón, the state’s public health officer.

A July 27 poll by the UC Berkeley Institute for Government Studies found likely voters split on the recall, with 47% in favor and 50% opposed. Mr. Elder led the field of nearly 50 candidates seeking to replace the governor with 18% support.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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