By MADISON HIRNEISEN
THE CENTER SQUARE STAFF REPORTER
(The Center Square) — Several California leaders on Thursday voiced support for Gov. Gavin Newsom’s efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 as cases continue to rise across the state.
On Wednesday, Gov. Newsom announced several new measures to combat the spread of COVID-19, including a mandate for all healthcare workers to receive the booster shot by Feb. 1. The governor also promised to extend hours of operations at state-run testing facilities and provide at-home tests for millions of students before they return to school after winter break.
The new measures come as the omicron variant is spreading rapidly in California, accounting for more than 50% of tests processed at the state’s genome sequencing lab, Gov. Newsom said Wednesday.
Several public health leaders expressed support for the governor’s measures heading into the holiday season, saying the measures will help to keep Californians safe.
“(Gov. Newsom) is keeping communities safe through access that is easy and convenient,” Dr. Manali Patel, assistant professor of medicine at Stanford University, said in a statement.
Gov. Newsom’s promise to expand testing for students also received praise from education officials across the state on Thursday. On Wednesday, the governor said keeping kids in school remains a key priority heading into the new year.
“The L.A. County Office of Education is actively working with the L.A. County Department of Public Health and the California Department of Public Health to facilitate the distribution of at-home COVID-19 test kits to LA County students as they head back to school,” Dr. Debra Duardo, Los Angeles County superintendent of schools, said in a statement. “At-home testing options support our ability to prevent transmission as students return to campus.”
Gov. Newsom’s commitment to provide millions of at-home tests for students followed a similar promise from the Biden administration earlier this week to distribute 500 million taxpayer-funded home testing kits starting in January. The administration also vowed to deploy federal medical workers to the states seeing the biggest surges – Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Arizona, New Hampshire and Vermont.
As of Thursday, cases are up 31% over the last two weeks in California, according to data tracking from the New York Times. Deaths in the state remain among the lowest in the nation, at a rate of 0.16 per 100,000 over the last seven days, the New York Times reported.
Because California’s case rate and positivity rate remains among the lowest in the nation, some officials are hopeful that the state is better prepared to manage the spread of the omicron variant compared to states that are still dealing with the aftershocks of the delta variant surge earlier this year.
“California is doing great, and we want to keep it up,” Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, said in a statement. “We’re doing great because we have great vaccination rates, but we want to top everybody and get completely vaccinated. Everybody, boost it.”
Madison Hirneisen covers California for The Center Square.