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Unmasking the California psyche: Governor Newsom makes tough governing decision & may pay big price
Dennis Wyatt
Dennis Wyatt

We’re funny people.

We demand the people we elect not to play politics and make the hard decisions in a crisis.

And when they do and their action doesn’t align perfectly with our take on the world, we want to burn them at the stake.

Depending upon who is doing the talking, there are a multitude of reasons to recall — and not to recall — Gavin Newsom on Sept. 14.

There is little doubt the governor faced a “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” situation when it came to his decision Wednesday to order all public and private school teachers and support staff to either be vaccinated or take weekly COVID-19 tests. It falls on the heels of Newsom’s directive for all health care workers and state employees to follow the same either/or requirement.

The pandemic is still real. The current surge is real. The prospect of even more variants is real.

It’s probably safe to say most Californians don’t want to slip back into lockdowns.

And while health providers through trial and error have become more effective at taking on COVID, there are still serious risks to a substantial number of people who contract it.

Newsom’s decision triggered the expected reaction for those who view themselves as freedom fighters.

The governor doesn’t have the luxury to live in the abstract.

Newsom was put into office after taking an oath to govern California.

Putting aside his spending initiatives, efforts to expand government and therefore people’s dependence on Sacramento as well as their becoming more subservient to the state, and social engineering by tinkering with the criminal justice system the dilemma the governor addressed was straight forward: How do we protect the most vulnerable Californians and to make sure they have the strongest future possible to build their future on?

The vulnerable are more than 7 million children from age 5 to 18 who go to public and private schools in California.

Most of those young people can’t even get vaccinated as they are 12 and under.

And whether it is because of the delta variant or the fact when society was in full lockdown children didn’t congregate in large numbers, the number of youngsters getting sick from COVID is rising.

No one from the anti-face mask crowd to those who take sanitizing to levels that would stun Mr. Clean is disputing distance learning has created worrisome learning loss that gets worse the longer students are forced to try and learn remotely.

California, contrary to popular misconception, not only has what is essentially a statewide school system with local boards that have limited authority but the state also exists as a political subdivision to oversee public safety and health.

Whoever is governor has a legal and moral obligation to address a clear-cut public health crisis. It has been a hundred years since California, the United States, and the world has experienced a universal public health crisis on this level.

California needs to keep vulnerable youngsters safe. California also needs to effectively educate kids.

Too much rides on both not to play it safe.

To argue Newsom with his school mask mandate and now his vaccination or weekly tests of teachers and support staff has crossed some Constitutional line is a tad disingenuous.

The seats of California’s classrooms are filled with students that were required to have a repertoire of immunizations before they were allowed to sit in them. At one point or another in their life or employment process most staff needed to have them as well.

It is true that the COVID-19 vaccines only have emergency approval and the standard Food & Drug Administration approval.

But given what is at stake would Newsom have been wise to wait for full approval or to wait for vaccines children ages 5 to 12 can take?

He made a judgment call.

A call not born in a desire to dictate his will, but a call made to avoid another crushing lockdown and to reduce the size of the carnage COVID-19 is leaving in its wake as it is spread around.

Concerns about immunizations in general and COVID vaccines specifically should not be dismissed. They need to be weighed against the potential consequences of not taking them and the odds they can create health issues.

No vaccine has ever been 100 percent guaranteed not to have side effects just like wearing seat belts won’t absolutely assure you won’t be killed in a car crash.

Yes, the long-term potential impacts of the COVID shots aren’t fully known. Nor are the long-term harmful impacts of contracting COVID and becoming ill.

Nothing is absolutely black and white with the pandemic.

Newsom’s decision was crafted with all of that in mind.

If it wasn’t then he’s among the most reckless politicians to have walked the earth in terms of saving his own political skin.

It is abundantly clear a lot of Californians aren’t happy with everything the governor has done in the COVID emergency. Decisions were made on shifting data and theories because COVID had no history of treatment, how it mutates, and other nuances that a responsible leader should weigh.

Disagree with Newsom if you want, but do you want a governor who makes public health decisions based on opinion polls or one who weighs various variables that when taken as a whole required an unpopular decision to be made?

It would be disingenuous to suggest Newsom benefitted from his decision. It clearly riled a lot of people and not just those who won’t let go of his bonehead hypocrisy dining at the $300 a plate French Laundry. Not only did he go mask-less after preaching for everyone else to wear them but he was caught in a lie via smartphone evidence when he said he was actually dining outside.

Had he not taken the course of action he did and school-based cases balloon to the point quarantines and even reverting to distance learning spreads like a PG&E sparked wildfire, he would have been hammered by an entirely different group of California voters.

With 32 days to go before the recall no politician worth their salt with his support based on polling fading fast is going to put it all on the line by poking an already angry beehive of voters even more by making an arbitrary decision.

This looks like, smells like, and seems like a decision weighed by a leader even if ultimately you disagree with it.

Too bad Newsom hasn’t extended such bold and decisive leadership to a crisis that has the potential to do even more massive short-term and long-term damage to California — the drought.