SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom will deliver his third State of the State address from Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, the home field of the World Series champions that has been transformed into one of the nation’s largest COVID-19 vaccination sites.
“Dodger Stadium represents California’s spirit of service. Once filled with dedicated fans, it is now filled with dedicated health care providers,” Newsom spokesperson Sahar Robertson said in a statement Monday.
The stadium also provides a more somber reminder of the pandemic: It seats 56,000 people, nearly the number of people who have died from COVID-19 in California.
Newsom’s address Tuesday comes at a crucial time for the Democratic governor, who faces a likely recall election later this year fueled by anger over his handling of the pandemic.
Newsom has been crisscrossing the state in recent weeks, highlighting his administration’s efforts to administer vaccinations while trumpeting the declining numbers of new coronavirus cases in the nation’s most populous state.
Speaking Monday at a vaccination site in the small Central Valley community of Earlimart, Newsom said not to expect lots of policy announcements during his speech, scheduled for 6 p.m.
“I want to highlight this heroic work that’s being done every single day with people that aren’t getting attention or being celebrated but are the quiet heroes in this pandemic,” Newsom said. “It’s a different kind of State of the State.”
In recent weeks, Newsom and the Democratic-controlled state Legislature teamed up to approve a $7.6 billion stimulus package and $6.6 billion in funding aimed at convincing public school districts to return students to classrooms.
Newsom also has loosened some coronavirus restrictions, allowing indoor youth sports with testing, announcing a limited number of fans can attend Major League Baseball games and saying theme parks like Disneyland can reopen on April 1 with limited capacity.
California is administering an average of 228,000 vaccines per day, according to the California Department of Public Health. The Los Angeles Times reported over the weekend that many counties were skeptical of the state’s centralized vaccination program being run by insurance giant Blue Shield.
So far, Kern County is the only county to sign a contract with Blue Shield. But 41 federally qualified health centers, 28 hospitals, four large medical groups, three pharmacies and three tribal clinics have signed on, according to the company.
Newsom said more than 200,000 education workers have been vaccinated since March 1, when the state began setting aside 10% of its supply for teachers. And he said the state is likely to loosen coronavirus restrictions for a dozen more counties on Tuesday.
“We are very close to turning the proverbial page” on the pandemic, the governor said.
In another sign of decreasing coronavirus hospitalizations, state officials announced they are moving surge facilities in a former NBA arena and other locations back to “warm” status, meaning they could be reopened if there is another wave of the pandemic despite the increase in vaccinations.
Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, former home of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, moved to inactive this month, as did beds in the Porterville Developmental Center and at Imperial Valley College.
Federal medical stations in five counties also are now inactive: at the Riverside County Fairgrounds; the vacant Sears Building, also in Riverside County; the Los Angeles Convention Center; the San Mateo County Event Center; The Craneway Pavilion in Contra Costa County; and the Fresno Convention and Entertainment Center.
Sites at the Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa and the Palomar Medical Center in San Diego will move to warm status on Monday.
Officials could not immediately say how much the temporary facilities cost to operate, or how many patients they treated.
This story has been corrected to say that Kern County has signed a contract with Blue Shield. A previous version said no county had signed a contract.
Associated Press writer Don Thompson contributed to this story.