When is a COVID-19 emergency not really an emergency? When you’re the governor of California, and you want to go on vacay for Thanksgiving, obviously.
Less than two weeks after he extended California’s emergency powers until March 31, 2022, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office announced he had left the state — and the country — to spend Turkey Day south of the border in Mexico.
According to The Associated Press, the announcement was made hours after he gave a news conference at a vaccine clinic in San Francisco, warning about the possibility of a COVID-19 surge.
During the news conference, the AP reported, he noted that 27 states had seen a 10 percent or greater increase in coronavirus cases.
“Ask the governor of Michigan [or] Colorado how they are doing,” Newsom said.
“States are struggling because people are taking down their guard or claiming ‘mission accomplished.’ … I don’t want to see that happen here in California.”
Yet, when he issued an executive order extending the state of emergency on Nov. 10, Newsom said part of the reason was “California has stopped recording week-over-week declines in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, which demonstrates a plateau and the potential beginning of a new surge in COVID-19 cases.”
The executive order said health care facilities were also “already short-staffed and backlogged from the Delta variant and with high-levels of non-COVID-19 admissions.”
In addition, despite the state’s draconian policies on COVID — including a vaccine mandate for K-12 students — the state’s number of weekly cases was twice that of Florida earlier this month. California’s case rate was at 112.2 per 100,000 residents as of Nov. 9. Florida, far looser on COVID restrictions, was at 49.9 cases per 100,000.
“The state of emergency ensures the state can continue to respond quickly to evolving conditions as the pandemic persists,” a spokeswoman for Newsom told California-centric politics website CalMatters.
“As we have seen, this virus and variants are unpredictable. The state of emergency will be ended once conditions no longer warrant an emergency response.”
However, CalMatters’ Emily Hoeven noted the extension “rais[ed] questions about what conditions would prompt Newsom or state lawmakers to phase out the emergency powers that have shaped Californians’ lives for nearly two years and affected more than 400 laws and regulations.”
“The news comes as some Californians seek clarity on milestones that would prompt the state to unwind its emergency measures. Two UCSF doctors — including the director of the emergency department’s COVID response — recently started a petition calling on Newsom to identify metrics under which the state would lift its school mask mandate,” Hoeven wrote in the Nov. 15 article.
“On Friday, a superior court judge dismissed a lawsuit challenging the mask mandate, citing the governor’s emergency authority. (However, the judge also noted that districts can decide for themselves how to enforce the mandate and whether they want to follow the state’s testing and quarantine guidelines.)”
According to a tweet from Hoeven, the governor and his family will return from Mexico on Nov. 28, leaving Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis in charge of the state as she guides it through its COVID “emergency,” such as it is right now.
— Emily Hoeven (@emily_hoeven) November 22, 2021
As Hoeven noted, the timing was felicitous for Newsom; hours after his departure, the state just happened to release a long-overdue report on a COVID testing lab that California just auto-renewed a $1.7 billion contract with.
Interesting timing: Hours after @GavinNewsom held a press conference and then departed to Mexico for Thanksgiving, the state released a seven-month-overdue report into its own problem-plagued COVID-19 testing lab.
Background on lab here: https://t.co/fE8Dxf8acd
— Emily Hoeven (@emily_hoeven) November 23, 2021
According to the AP, state officials said the Valencia Branch Laboratory had demonstrated “significant deficiencies” in terms of training and record-keeping. A whistleblower had alleged the lab had destroyed data and documents, although the California Department of Public Health couldn’t substantiate this.
In February, Hoeven noted in a report earlier this month at CalMatters, the state threatened the lab with closure.
The vacation also comes after Newsom took a 12-day hiatus from the public eye. The governor first canceled a trip to the COP26 international climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, saying it was because of “family obligations.” He later said it was so he could take his children trick-or-treating.
The man cares about his family — so much so that he’s whisking them off to Mexico. In the midst of an emergency, too! It’s just coincidental that “emergency” expands the state’s powers greatly. Rest assured this is all because he cares about your family, too, California. He cares about you so much, he needs those powers to ensure your children wear masks in school.
I’m sure his children will be wearing masks in Mexico, the same way I’m sure they wore them when they trick-or-treated.
I’m sure we’ll see pictures as proof, the same way I’m sure he’ll answer any questions reporters might have about the Valencia Branch Laboratory report when he’s back in America. This is a man who’s on top of his state’s COVID emergency, even when he doesn’t seem to take it very seriously himself.
Let’s not forget that Newsom faced a recall over his COVID policies. That recall effort was helped along by one of the most staggering instances of coronavirus-related hypocrisy: Newsom’s unmasked November 2020 attendance at a birthday party at a $350-a-plate Michelin-starred restaurant in Napa Valley called The French Laundry.
The dinner technically fit under the state’s strict COVID protocols at the time, but the governor apologized for not being a better example: “While the First Partner and I followed the restaurant’s health protocols and took safety precautions, I should have modeled better behavior and not joined the dinner,” Newsom said in a statement.
One year later, he’s still not modeling better behavior.
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