Newsom Earmarks Vaccines for Teachers as Reopening Talks Sputter

Starting in March, 10% of the state’s Covid-19 vaccines will be reserved for teachers and school employees even though Newsom and lawmakers have yet to settle on a plan to reopen campuses.

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) — Still sparring with lawmakers and unions over school reopening plans, California Governor Gavin Newsom said Friday the state will nonetheless start reserving 10% of future Covid-19 vaccines for teachers and child care workers.    

Beginning March 1, a minimum of 75,000 doses will be reserved for employees at school districts prepping to resume in-person instruction as infections and hospitalizations continue to decline across the Golden State. While most counties are already prioritizing teachers for vaccinations, Newsom said the mandate is necessary to speed up the reopening process.

“There’s momentum on reopening schools, and I want to continue seeing that momentum,” Newsom said from a vaccination site in Oakland. “That’s why we’re setting aside 10% of new first dose allocations for our teachers.”

Newsom said earmarking doses for school employees will be possible due to improved coordination with the federal government, which has been giving the states a three-week outlook on vaccine distributions. According to the Democratic governor, California is slated to receive 1.37 million doses next week and its weekly allotment will jump to 1.52 million by the second week of March — positive figures that led LA County officials to say Friday they don’t expect any shipment issues despite severe weather nationwide.

California has now administered nearly 7 million doses, more than any other state, while Covid-19 hospitalizations are down 39% over the last two weeks and the statewide positivity rate has dropped to 3.1%.

The change in the state’s vaccine strategy comes as negotiations over school reopenings between Newsom and lawmakers have stalled.

The sides didn’t reach an agreement by a deadline Newsom set last week, so some lawmakers have decided to go at it alone.

The “Safe and Open Schools” plan outlined in a pair of bills announced Thursday will send more than $6.6 billion to schools that offer in-person instruction to — at the very least — homeless and low-income students, English-language learners, foster kids, and those without computer and internet access. The schools have until April 15 to meet this deadline, and by April 1, every school in the state must have a completed Covid-19 safety plan in place.

Proponents, including Phil Ting who chairs the influential Assembly Budget Committee, said “science clearly shows” students can return to classrooms safely this spring. The plan could come up for a vote as early as next Monday.

But the proposal received a cold reception from not only Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and state Senate President Toni Atkins, but Newsom as well.  

On Friday, Newsom made it clear the Democratic leaders — and the teachers unions — were nowhere close to a consensus on how and when to reopen K-12 public schools. He said lawmakers’ plan clashed with guidance from the Biden administration and that he wouldn’t sign it.

“My fear about what was put out yesterday is it will actually slow down our ability to reopen schools safely. That’s my concern,” Newsom said, adding discussions are ongoing.

Amid the school reopening talks, the state on Friday renounced its ban on youth and adult team sports.  

Under new guidance issued by the Newsom administration, youth sports such as football, baseball and soccer will be allowed to resume in counties with low case rates. Modifications will be mandated, however, including weekly testing for sports like football, rugby and water polo.

“Youth sports are important to our children’s physical and mental health, and our public health approach has worked to balance those benefits against Covid-19 risks,” said Dr. Tomás Aragón, state public health officer. “With case rates and hospitalizations declining across California, we are allowing outdoor competition to resume, with modifications and steps to reduce risk, in counties where case rates are lower.” 

Democratic lawmakers applauded Newsom’s actions on teacher vaccines and youth sports, saying they will help kids return to some sense of normalcy.

“Prioritizing teachers for the Covid vaccine and setting aside 10% of vaccine doses for in-person educators and those returning to their classrooms resolve major pieces of the puzzle. With those now falling into place, we can move to safely restore sports,” state Senator Josh Becker, D-San Mateo, said in a statement.

%d bloggers like this: