Newsom Touts Vaccine Gains as California Deaths Near U.S High

Governor Gavin Newsom said California is making progress in delivering coronavirus vaccines and trends are improving, even as the state is poised to surpass New York for the most Covid-19 fatalities.

The governor said more than 5 million vaccinations have been administered in California while other data, including new cases and hospitalizations, are moving in the right direction.

“We are seeing progress in every category,” Newsom said during a press conference at a vaccine distribution site in Fresno. He announced plans to accelerate inoculation efforts, particularly for minorities who have been lagging the overall community in getting shots.

Newsom Touts Vaccine Gains as California Deaths Near U.S High

Still, the state is continuing to see variants of the virus, and has recorded its first two cases of a strain dominant in South Africa, said Newsom, a Democrat in his first term.

California is recovering from a winter virus surge that sent deaths soaring in the most-populous state. It had 45,052 Covid-19 fatalities as of Wednesday, compared with 45,306 in the early virus epicenter of New York, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

On a per capita basis, California is still in the middle regarding virus fatalities. The state has the largest population in the U.S., with nearly 40 million residents. New York is less than half that size.

Newsom Touts Vaccine Gains as California Deaths Near U.S High

The Golden State locked down early as the virus began its spread last year and has since had to again shut down parts of the economy. Some businesses, including movie theaters, concert venues and theme parks, have not reopened in much of the state. Schools have also largely been closed and dining limited to outdoors.

California has seen three virus surges, with the most recent, tied to the fall and winter holidays, being its most severe. The latest outbreak filled intensive-care units in places including Los Angeles County, the hardest-hit area. Almost a third of California’s Covid-19 deaths -- about 15,000 -- came in January alone.

The outbreak has since improved, with California averaging about 13,800 daily cases over the past two weeks, compared with about 40,000 a month ago.

The prolonged closures have weighed on a population eager to return to normal life. Some have mounted a recall effort against Newsom, a former San Francisco mayor and lieutenant governor who many believe will run for president some day.

A group of disrupters were heard yelling “recall Gavin” at the event in Fresno.

Newsom Touts Vaccine Gains as California Deaths Near U.S High

Recall Gavin 2020, one of the groups pushing for his ouster, claims over 1.4 million petitions have been signed, just shy of the 1.49 million required to hold a recall election. California’s Secretary of State has verified only 410,000.

A recent poll suggested more people disapprove of Newsom’s performance as governor than approve it, according to the University of California at Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies. Still, 45% of registered voters said they opposed a recall, more than the 36% who said they favored removing him from office.

Early data of a small phase trial published Sunday showed that AstraZeneca Plc’s vaccine has limited efficacy against mild disease caused by the B.1.351 South African variant. That prompted the government to suspend plans to give it to health workers there.

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