By MADISON HIRNEISEN
THE CENTER SQUARE STAFF REPORTER
(The Center Square) — Gov. Gavin Newsom warned that “winter is coming” on Wednesday, highlighting concerns over a potential increase of COVID-19 infections heading into the end of the year.
Speaking from a vaccine clinic near the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Medical Center, the governor warned of the “seasonality” of COVID-19, noting that case rates and hospitalizations are rising across the state.
“While we were spared the worst in this summer, the prospects of a challenging winter are upon us,” Gov. Newsom said. “And that’s why we’re doing everything in our power to prepare and to protect ourselves.”
In anticipation of a potential winter spike in cases, the governor, alongside the state’s Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly, promoted vaccines and booster shots Wednesday as the best form of protection heading into the winter months.
“Not only are you five times more likely to be infected by COVID if you are unvaccinated, but 20 times more likely to die, and so with that statistic in mind, I really just want to continue to deliver home the strong point that vaccines are our way through this pandemic,” Ghaly said Wednesday. “We are concerned about the winter, we’re concerned about rising case numbers, pressure on our hospitals from a number of other issues on top of COVID. So do what you can today to get your vaccine, protect yourself into the winter.”
Thus far, the state has distributed more than 54.7 million vaccine doses, and 66.3% of the state’s entire population is fully vaccinated, according to the latest data from the California Department of Public Health.
Vaccine coverage is also expanding among children ages 5-11, with more than 110,000 doses given in this age group, Dr. Ghaly reported Wednesday. He said vaccine availability for this age group means an additional 9% of the state’s population is now eligible to be vaccinated.
Yet, despite the overall high vaccination uptake in the state, case rates and hospitalizations have risen in recent weeks.
California currently has a case rate of 112.2 per 100,000 and has been designated to have a “high” level of community transmission, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In addition, hospitalizations are rising in areas with less vaccination coverage, such as San Bernardino, Riverside and Fresno counties, where rates are up more than 20% in recent weeks.
This is a stark shift from just over a month ago when California was the only state in the U.S. with “moderate” disease transmission, which equates to a case rate of fewer than 50 cases per 100,000.
According to the latest CDC data, several states across the Southeast report lower case rates than California. Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina currently have “substantial” disease spread. Florida and Georgia have “moderate” disease transmission with less than half of California’s rate of spread.
Gov. Newsom said Wednesday that an increasing case rate appears to be the “familiar pattern” of COVID-19 in the winter months, noting that around this time last year, case rates, hospitalization rates and ICU numbers began to increase ahead of the winter surge. He noted that several other states, including Colorado and states in the Midwest, are seeing similar increases.
The governor said the key to interrupting this pattern is upping immunity through vaccines and booster doses. Gov. Newsom encouraged everyone eligible to get their booster dose and dispelled circulating rumors that he had an adverse reaction after receiving the Moderna booster shot at the end of October.
“I had absolutely no impact whatsoever from the COVID shot, the original nor the booster,” Gov. Newsom said. “Absolutely none. No fatigue, even no soreness.”
The governor called the misinformation circulating about booster shots “mishegoss,” adding that the vaccines are life-saving and what helped the state “put a lid on COVID” over the summer.
Madison Hirneisen covers California for The Center Square.