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Newsom Compares Unvaccinated to Drunk Drivers, and He’s Not Wrong

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California’s governor did not mince words Tuesday when he compared unvaccinated people to drunk drivers putting the lives of others at risk.

What Gov. Gavin Newsom said was:

“You don’t have a choice to go out and drink and drive and put everybody else’s lives at risk. That’s the equivalent of this moment with the deadliness and efficiency of the Delta variant.”

The comment was made Monday when Newsom announced that health care workers and state employees would be required to either show proof of vaccination or be subject to COVID-19 testing twice a week. The state also “encourages all local governments and businesses to adopt similar measures,” according to a press release issued by the Office of the Governor Monday. The policy is effective August 2 for state employees and August 9 for health care workers.

California vaccination status by county as of Tuesday, July 27, 2021. (Graphic illustration courtesy of California Department of Public Health)

The new rules are only necessary because so many people are refusing vaccination, and for obvious reasons that is particularly dangerous in health care facilities. WebMD and Medscape Medical News conducted analysis with data collected through the end of May and reported then that one in four hospital workers had not yet received a single vaccine dose. The statistics tracked with the general U.S. population.

As of Tuesday morning, the state has fully vaccinated just over 62 percent of the eligible population, and, while another 9 percent are in the process, that leaves more than a quarter of people aged 12 and older without any vaccine protection. 

Even in California, where officials say more doses have been administered than in any other state, the unvaccinated are driving up case and hospitalization numbers. There has been a 6 percent total case increase since basic mask and distancing guidelines were dropped on June 15. More to the point, cases have more than quadrupled since the state’s lowest point in May and COVID-19 hospitalizations up more than 230 percent since the lowest point just last month.  

The very transmissible Delta variant is thriving among the unvaccinated population. Some have real health-related reasons for not being inoculated, but the refusal of others is being often fueled by toxic political rhetoric and conspiracy theories. It’s those people Newsom is referring to as the equivalent of drunk drivers, and he’s right. 

Severe breakthrough infections are very rare, but there is some risk particularly for people who have compromised immune systems, and the longer we keep this virus swirling around, the more opportunity it has to mutate and create variants that may render the first-generation vaccines ineffective. Some surveyed epidemiologists believe that time could come as early as December.

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Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Journalist, editor, student, single mom to a pack of wolves, foodie, music lover, resident smart ass, and champion of vulgarity and human kindness.