“We will be doubling down on mask wearing,” said California Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday, “not arguing to follow the example of Texas and other states that I think are making a terrible mistake.”
Just minutes after Newsom announced on Tuesday that seven local counties were being allowed to reopen further due to falling Covid-19 numbers, the CA governor excoriated a decision that same day by Abbott to lift his state’s mask mandate.
Sharing an Associated Press story on Twitter, Newsom wrote simply, “Absolutely reckless.”
Abbott felt differently.
“Removing statewide mandates does not end personal responsibility,” AP quoted Abbott as saying. “It’s just that now state mandates are no longer needed,” he said. Mississippi also lifted its mask requirement on Tuesday.
Abbott later wrote triumphantly on Twitter, “I just announced Texas is OPEN 100%.”
Newsom, seemingly responding to Abbot on Thursday said, “Forgive me, the positivity rate is 2.1 in CA. It’s five times that in Texas. Four times in Florida and some of these states.
“This is not the time to spike the ball,” he continued. “There’s no ‘mission accomplished’ sign behind us,” a reference to George W. Bush’s infamous declaration that major combat operations in Iraq had ceased.
Indeed, Texas this week has outstripped the more populous California in new cases. On Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University, the Lone Star State recorded 7,621 new cases, the highest count in the nation. It was followed by New York at about 6,500, Florida at about 6,000 and then California at 4,354.
To Newsom’s point about doubling down, California updated its recommendations for mask wearing on Thursday with the following: “‘Double masking’ is an effective way to improve fit and filtration. A close-fitting cloth mask can be worn on top of a surgical/disposable mask to improve the seal of the mask to the face.”
Newsom also announced Thursday that counties across the state could be cleared to open more businesses and lift other restrictions sooner than anticipated under an update that loosens some requirements in his Blueprint for a Safer Economy.
The update will, for the first time, tie reopenings to vaccination totals and will prioritize getting Covid-19 vaccines to communities hardest hit by the pandemic. It will also reportedly allow counties to reopen at a daily rate of 10 new cases per 100,000 residents, instead of the current 7 per 100,000. The test positivity threshold for movement out of the most restrictive tier won’t change from the current 8%.
The new CA plan is curious because, while it should help improve vaccination rates in the state’s hardest-hit communities, it also does not clearly explain the metrics by which the decision to reopen will be merited. For more analysis, click here.
In fact, one could argue that Newsom is loosening restrictions to a lesser degree, but in the same general way that Abbott has: Without a clear explanation.
One possible influence is the fact that the petition to recall Newsom reached 1.9 million signatures on Wednesday night. Organizers of that effort would like to collect 2 million to ensure that they have the roughly 1.5 million needed to trigger a recall vote.