School reopening deal coming

Gov. Gavin Newsom participates in a ribbon cutting ceremony at a COVID-19 testing facility Oct. 30, 2020, in Valencia. The state is working with corporate partner PerkinElmer to run the lab which will enable the state to process an additional 150,000 COVID-19 tests per day. Photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez, AP Photo/Pool

Gov. Gavin Newsom participates in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at a COVID-19 testing facility on Oct. 30, 2020, in Valencia. Photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez, AP Photo/Pool

Get ready for some big developments in the state’s pandemic response.

At a Monday press conference, Gov. Gavin Newsom rattled off a list of big-ticket items likely to be unveiled within the next week. Here’s a closer look at what’s coming:

  • A school reopening package with a framework for teacher vaccinations. Newsom said he and the state Legislature hope to announce the deal “this week.” Neither lawmakers nor teachers unions supported Newsom’s previous plan to reopen schools and disagreement persists on whether all teachers should be vaccinated before returning to campus.
  • A mass vaccination site in the Central Valley. The site will be California’s third in conjunction with the federal government and will be announced “in the next number of days,” Newsom said.
  • A framework to vaccinate Californians with disabilities and underlying health conditions. Newsom said he and Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s top health official, “made a commitment to each other … to figure this out once and for all by the end of the week.” California’s recent pivot to an age-based priority system dismayed advocates for people with disabilities and chronic health conditions.
  • A vaccination demographics dashboard. Newsom said the dashboard will launch “later this week,” but added the data won’t be “truly representative of the diversity of the state,” as doses have been going primarily to health care workers and the elderly.
  • More details about the state’s partnership with Blue Shield and Kaiser Permanente. Newsom said the contracts underpinning California’s new vaccine distribution system will be released on Feb. 15.

When it comes to accelerating the pace of vaccinations, the biggest challenge is supply, Newsom said. Although California is slated to receive 1 million doses this week and around 1.2 million next week, it’s “simply not enough.”

The state is also working on guidance for dividing supply between first and second doses, Ghaly said. Numerous counties, including Los Angeles and Napa, are limiting first-dose appointments this week in order to prioritize those ready for their second shot.

CalMatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics. 

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