Gov. Gavin Newsom
Gov. Gavin Newsom. Courtesy of the governor’s office

Gov. Gavin Newsom Wednesday hailed downward trends in key metrics tracking the COVID-19 pandemic in the state, while urging continued vigilance and insisting that vaccine distribution has vastly improved in the state despite some localized challenges.

“We recognize … there are parts of the state that are already running out of vaccines, where they’re throttling back in terms of their dose allocation because they’re running out,” Newsom said. “The federal government doesn’t have the doses to support states like ours at the scale we all would like to see. We are limited on the basis of supply.”

Newsom, who faces a possible recall effort that polls showed has been driven in part by his response to the pandemic, said the state is expected to receive 1.06 million doses of vaccine this week, a number he called “encouraging.” He said the average number of people being vaccinated in the state has tripled in recent weeks, with the number averaging more than 1 million per week.

“No one is satisfied with the pace of distribution of these vaccines,” he said. “Of course, we have more work to do but we have made demonstrable progress and we will continue to build on that.”

He said the state is being more aggressive about ensuring vaccine doses are being used promptly, noting that the state last week pulled back 170,000 doses from a pharmacy chain that didn’t administer its allocation quickly enough.

The state reported a total of 10,501 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, a number that Newsom noted was well below the reports from early January, when more than 60,000 cases were being announced each day.

Newsom also noted a sharp drop in the testing-positivity rate statewide, dropping from 14.3% a month ago to 6.1%. Hospitalizations have dropped by nearly 30% over the past two weeks, and the intensive-care unit population is down 21.5%.

While hailing that progress, the governor insisted, “This does not mean we’re out of the woods.”

He pointed to concerns about new variants of the coronavirus that have been found to spread far more easily from person to person, but not more dangerous. The most well-publicized of the variants originated in the United Kingdom, and Newsom said 150 cases of that variant have been found in California. There haven’t been any cases of the mutation first discovered in South Africa, but there have been 960 cases of a West Coast variant.

“The virulence, the transmissibility of those variants are obviously a concern,” he said. “That’s why we have to be cautious.”

He urged residents to continue wearing face coverings and practicing social distancing.

“With these vaccines, with these case rates declining, we see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “… We need to continue the good work we’ve done in the state to continue to see that case rate decline, these ICU and hospitalizations decline and that positivity rate — 6.1% is still not where we want to be.”

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