Aldon Thomas Stiles, California Black Media

Last week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom held a press conference to announce new COVID-19 guidelines for California’s K-12 public schools. Two days later, President Joe Biden praised the new mandate in a tweet.

“Gov. @GavinNewsom is leading California through unprecedented crises — he’s a key partner in fighting the pandemic and helping build our economy back better,” the POTUS said about Newsom, who is facing a recall election Sept. 14.

“To keep him on the job, registered voters should vote no on the recall election by 9/14 and keep California moving forward,” Biden continued.

Newsom’s new mandate requires all school employees to either provide proof of vaccination or submit to weekly testing.

“This is a state that very proudly was among the first states in the country to mandate mask wearing in the public education system, before this school year and before the CDC aligned with that standard; before the Academy of Pediatrics aligned with that strategy. And before the controversies that have subsequently ensued,” Newsom said when he made the announcement.

In July, COVID-19 cases among children under17 nearly tripled.

Conservative talk show host Larry Elder, who is African American and the frontrunner among candidates vying to replace Newsom in the upcoming recall election said, if he wins, he would not mandate state workers to wear masks or get vaccinated.

“When I become governor, assuming there are mandates for masks and statewide mandates for vaccines, they will be suspended right away,” Elder said. “This is America. We have freedom in America.”

Elder said he does believe people in high-risk categories should be vaccinated.

“But there are many Americans who disagree with me, feel that the vaccine was done too quickly,” he continued, explaining that COVID vaccines have been approved for “emergency use.”

As of Aug. 15, the 7-day average of new COVID cases in California was 12,031. So far, there have been 4.02 million cases in the state since the beginning of the pandemic and 64,183 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.

About 51% of all Californians have received both vaccines.

The same day, Newsom tweeted a graph comparing California’s new COVID-19 hospitalizations to those of Texas and California, two states vaccine skeptics and “pro-freedom” activists have held up as counterpoints to the California governor’s strict coronavirus policies. The data the graph visualized showed that California hospitalization rates are currently much lower than both states.

Texas and Florida both have outspoken Republican governors who have enacted looser policies in their fights against COVID.

“CA is reporting 141.1 new COVID cases for every 100,000 residents over the last 7 days — a rate HALF of Texas (297.8); and less than ONE-FOURTH of Florida’s rate (653.8), according to data from the CDC,” Newsom tweeted.

Many businesses have either loosened their COVID-19 restrictions or done away with them altogether while many public schools returned to in-person instruction at the beginning of the month.

Despite to growing number of COVID cases among children, some California parents still have reservations about vaccines and masks, even going so far as to sue the state to drop mask mandates in schools.

Newsom’s strategy for addressing these kinds of criticisms, as well as others that have arisen in the midst of his recall election, has been to associate them with the far-right political movement empowered by Former President Donald Trump.

Newsom employed this strategy in his response to Biden’s praise.

“Grateful for your support, Mr. President. There’s simply too much at stake — vote NO on September 14th to reject this Republican led recall,” Newsom tweeted.

California Black Media’s coverage of COVID-19 is supported by the California Health Care Foundation.