80% of eligible Californians have received at least 1 COVID-19 vaccine dose, Newsom says

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KABC) -- More than 80% of the people eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine in California have received at least one dose, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday, a pandemic milestone for the nation's most populous state amid signs a recent surge in new cases is abating.

Newsom contrasted California's COVID-19 positivity rate with those in Florida and Texas, which are roughly four times higher. The governor credited the state's low case rate to its high vaccination rate.

"California has now administered 48 million doses of vaccine. That's 18 million more than the next highest state, the state of Texas," Newsom said Tuesday at a vaccine site in Oakland.

Newsom said the news puts California among the top 10 states in vaccination rates, despite having the population of 21 other states combined. Inoculations have steadily increased in recent weeks after Newsom announced state employees and teachers must either be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing. He's also requiring all of the state's roughly 2.2 million health care workers to get vaccinated or risk losing their jobs.

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Newsom says California has averaged 600,000 doses administered for the past two weeks, with the number of vaccine doses administered having increased 44% since July Fourth.

"But again, 80% is not where we need to go. We still need to reach out to those that are on the fence," Newsom said.

In Los Angeles County, health officials say hospitalizations are plateauing and case rates have dropped about 17% from last week, but the daily death rate has risen over the past week to 18 per day.

Experts still see high numbers on the horizon.

County public health director Barbara Ferrer said with more students returning to school combined with increased routine screening testing over the next weeks, it is highly likely that case numbers will remain elevated.

L.A.'s teachers union is also pushing for mandated COVID-19 vaccinations for all eligible students, but is also fighting the school district for how it's handling quarantine requirements for exposed students.

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United Teachers Los Angeles is now set to file a unfair labor practice charge against the Los Angeles Unified School District over how the district is mandating online learning for students in isolation or quarantine.

The union says the school district cannot require that without first negotiating it.

But when it comes to predicting COVID numbers, schools are the biggest question mark for health officials heading toward winter.

"We are now going to have 1.4 million children that are in fact in school buildings every day with a significant number of them not yet vaccinated because they can't be," Ferrer said. "There is an unknown there."

L.A. County is looking at its current school quarantine rules as well as the latest transmission numbers. If transmission in schools is low enough, then the county could ease its school quarantine restrictions as early as two weeks from now.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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