On Wednesday, the governor was flanked by local elected officials who drew an explicit contrast between the pandemic response led by Mr. Newsom, a Democrat, and those of other states where conservative leaders have, in recent weeks, sought to block vaccine mandates and masking requirements.
“As I was driving here this morning, I was hearing news from Florida about a governor who is literally going to punish educators who are doing what is right,” said Mayor Libby Schaaf of Oakland, referring to a new state rule meant to counter local school mask mandates that has been touted by Florida’s governor, a Republican. “I know this is not a political press conference, but I cannot miss an opportunity to say that if Californians do not participate in the special election coming up, this could be our fate as well.”
Schools were closed longer in California than in many other states in large part because of a brutal winter surge, but also because of protracted negotiations with the state’s large, powerful teachers unions, who demanded extensive safety precautions, including priority access to vaccine doses.
On Wednesday, the president of the California Teachers Association, the state’s largest teachers union and an affiliate of the National Education Association, said in a statement that it supported the vaccine mandate.
“Educators want to be in classrooms with their students, and the best way to make sure that happens is for everyone who is medically eligible to be vaccinated, with robust testing and multitiered safety measures,” the union president, E. Toby Boyd, said, adding that the testing alternative is appropriate for educators who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons.
Becky Zoglman, a spokeswoman for the association, said that surveys have shown that about 90 percent of the union’s some 310,000 members have already been inoculated.
Students and educators are already required to wear masks inside schools.
But Mr. Newsom once again urged all Californians who haven’t been vaccinated to get their shots.
“The one thing that could end this pandemic once and for all is available in abundance,” he said. “I don’t know if there’s a more damn patriotic thing you can do on behalf of yourself and your community.”