A year into the pandemic that’s infected 3.6 million Californians and killed nearly 55,000, Gov. Gavin Newsom addressed the Legislature and residents in his third State of the State address.
This marked the first time the address was delivered virtually, as Newsom marked what he called an unprecedented moment in California history.
“The coronavirus pandemic has handed us some of the hardest challenges that we have had to deal with,” said Anthony Rendon, speaker of the California State Assembly.
As Newsom addressed Californians from Dodger Stadium, one of the nation’s largest community vaccination sites, state officials agreed there have been many milestones reached as the state continues to battle the pandemic.
“Instead of fans in the stands, we see nurses in (personal protective equipment), saving lives one injection at a time,” Newsom said. “All because, one year ago, a once-in-a-century pandemic arrived on our shores. COVID was no one’s fault, but it quickly became everyone’s burden, forcing hardworking Californians into impossible choices: To go to work and risk infection or stay home and lose your job.”
Newsom took a moment to highlight not only the health care workers on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19, but also the other “heroes” of this pandemic.
“From the grocery workers to custodians who get a fraction of the gratitude they deserve, to the parents who’ve juggled and struggled — moms especially — but kept charging ahead,” he added. “Your quiet bravery has created light in the darkest of times.”
While the surge hit California hard this winter, the state’s death rate has remained one of the lowest per capita in the nation: 134 deaths per 100,000, compared to 158 nationally, 153 in Texas and 247 in New York, according to Newsom.
“There is still much work to be done, but we can all look ahead toward a brighter future and toward building back better,” added Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis.
Since COVID-19 vaccines were introduced, more than 18% of Californians have been vaccinated, equating to nearly 11 million doses, with more on the way, she added.
This is just one step in the state’s journey toward recovery, which also includes reopening more businesses and getting kids back in their classrooms, Newsom said.
“When this pandemic ends — and it will end soon — we’re not going back to normal. Normal was never good enough. Normal accepts inequity,” he added.
This journey must also include a path to closing inequalities that have been illuminated by the pandemic, Newsom said, adding, “For the millions of Californians pushed out of the workforce and essential workers with no choice but to keep showing up — this is who we fight for.”
Moving forward, the state is set to continue focusing on goals realized through the pandemic, including committing nearly $2 billion this year to create more homeless housing, addressing mental health and substance abuse issues, investing in K-14 education, budgeting more than $1 billion for fire prevention and investing $10 billion in the state’s infrastructure.
Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, was disappointed with the governor’s address, calling it “fluff.”
“A State of the State address, historically, is you walk through what we’ve accomplished as a state for the last 12 months, and then you lay out your vision for that current year, and he offered absolutely no vision moving forward,” Wilk said. “That was not the speech I was looking for, and nor it was the speech I think he should have given.”
California Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Allan Zaremberg also issued a statement following Newsom’s address:
“We appreciate the governor’s focus on the importance of vaccines and safely reopening California’s economy and our schools as quickly as possible. The governor’s previous actions to provide economic relief to our small businesses will certainly help provide an economic bridge as we wait for California’s economy to recover. As we move toward that recovery, we encourage Gov. Newsom to use the billions of dollars California is likely to receive in federal relief to replenish the unemployment insurance fund rather than burdening small businesses with tax increases to repay billions in federal government loans.”