Newsom talks school reopening plan, gives update on COVID-19 vaccine during CSU Long Beach vaccination site visit

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Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday visited the COVID-19 vaccination site at Cal State Long Beach, where he discussed the state’s ramped-up effort to vaccinate Californians and the state’s plan to get teachers and students back into the classroom.

Newsom’s visit to the Long Beach campus came just two days after the governor and lawmakers announced a plan that would set aside billions of dollars for the effort to resume in-class learning.

The funds will “address the issue of not only reopening our schools safely for in-person instruction, but also addressing the pressing issue of learning loss,” Newsom told reporters during a news conference.

Under the new legislation, most of the state’s 6 million public school students could return to their campuses by April. The state legislature still needs to vote on the plan.

California has also begun to prioritize teacher vaccinations, though that won’t be a requirement to return to in-person instruction. The state is setting aside 75,000 vaccine doses for educators, or about 10% of its weekly allotment.

On top of that, “We’re creating educator days on Thursday and Friday in Southern California at another Cal State, Cal State L.A., exclusively for educators,” Newsom said.

As of Wednesday, California has administered nearly 9.5 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine, of which more than 50% have gone to those ages 65 and older.

But supply continues to be a challenge, according to Newsom, who said the state received 1.58 million doses this week, down from 1.73 million doses the previous week.

This week’s supply included 21,000 doses of the newly authorized Johnson & Johnson vaccine; next week, that figure is expected to rise to more than 300,000 doses.

On Wednesday, the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup — which includes California, Oregon, Washington and Nevada — concluded that the Johnson & Johnson shot “is safe and effective and that its use will lead to reduced severe and critical COVID-19 illnesses and hospitalization,” according to a news release from Newsom’s office.

The group “unanimously” recommended the vaccine be used in the four states, the release stated.

Also on Wednesday, the governor announced the Biden administration has approved California’s request to use Medicaid — or Medi-Cal, as it’s known in California — to get low-income students in grades K-12 tested for the coronavirus.

“I am grateful to our federal partners for approving our request to expand testing for low-income students to ensure schools can reopen safely in underserved neighborhoods that are bearing the brunt of pandemic hardships,” Newsom in a statement. “Our top priority is getting students back in the classroom to not only meet their learning needs, but also their mental health and social-emotional needs.”

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