SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) — Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday spoke at length about the police custody death of George Floyd and the unrest it has triggered, calling on the state’s residents to “be better as human beings” to fight racism and inequality before providing an update on the state’s response to the coronavirus.
Gov. Newsom began his update by talking about the diversity of California and the impact faith leaders had on his life before addressing the recent events in Minneapolis following the police custody death of Floyd on Monday.
“The Bible teaches us we are many parts, but one body. And when one part suffers, we all suffer. I was reminded of those words today, yesterday and the day before as I reflected — in a very poignant way — on what happened tragically a few days ago to George Floyd,” Newsom said.
The governor went on to describe being grabbed by his children as he arrived at home, in their pajamas and tearful about videos they had seen regarding Floyd on the social media site TikTok and wanting to talk about what happened.
“My son, eight years old, said ‘It’s not just wrong Dad. It’s worse than wrong, because bad people are supposed to be bad, but good people are supposed to be good. That’s what makes this wrong,'” explained Newsom as he described how upset and confused all four of his children were trying to come to grips with the incident, much as the entire nation was trying to come to grips with it.
The governor went on to talk about recognizing the differences of race and class and privilege and the challenge of making real change in society to get closer to true equality.
“I’ve been in elected office for decades now. Program passing, passing a law, you’re not solving problems. You’ve got to change culture. You’ve got to change people’s hearts and minds. It’s not just laws on the books. We have to fundamentally change who we are and recognize what we are capable of being,” said Newsom.
He acknowledged what he sees as the fundamental problem of being a nation that values power and aggression over caring and compassion and understands the public’s anger and fear over the incident in Minneapolis.
Newsom became emotional as talked about the fact that California had passed AB 392, the state’s landmark use of force bill, exactly a year ago on Friday and called on all Californians to work together to fight inequality and structural racism in society.
“We have to be more resolved than ever to do more and be better as human beings, as parents, as leaders in our own right, and model better behavior and make — in the spirit of Dr. King and Kennedy — to make more gentle the life of this world,” said Newsom as he choked up with emotion. “We’re all bound together in a web of mutuality. We’re all in this together. There’s no leak on your side of our boat. So in the spirit of the commonwealth, in that spirit that defines the best of our state and the best of our nation and what we promote and what we promise, I hope we can all practice a little bit more.”
As far as protests over Floyd’s death, Newsom acknowledged there would likely be more unrest across the state over the weekend, but asked for those protesting to be mindful.
“I pray that all of us that want to express ourselves do so thoughtfully and gently, but forcefully, in terms of expressing themselves as they should and as they must,” said the governor.
Newsom moved on to discuss the progress the state has made in coronavirus testing.
“Most important thing that has occurred that allows me more confidence in our capacity to deliver the promise we can safely and responsibly reopen the economy in the state of California is that our testing has substantially increased in this state. We went from 2,000 tests to day to now over 50,000 tests every day,” said Newsom.
But the governor also noted that, while health officials have made an effort to test the broad diversity of the state’s population in both urban and rural areas, the test result showed the disparity in race and ethnicity as far as cases. While the percentage of deaths among the Latino and Asian communities were roughly along the lines of their population, the black community showed just over ten percent of the deaths in the state despite making up only six percent of the population.
“Not surprisingly to the theme and frame that connects the dots today…the number of deaths in percentage terms, substantially higher. It is a point to highlight,” said Newsom. “It’s an incredibly important point about the structural challenges that we have as a state and a nation, to address the issues we’ve brought in this crisis and to subsequently address to resolve solve once and for all.”
On the positive side, Newsom noted that the state was making significant progress in training contact tracers.
“The state of California came into this pandemic with 3,000 tracers,” the governor said. “It’s important for folks to know, as we increase our testing significantly, we also are on track to our goal of 10,000 tracers trained in our workforce by the end of next month. That 10,000 allows us to track 3,600 new cases per day.”
The governor also acknowledged, as he has in previous updates, that local data and conditions would dictate the rate of reopening for different counties as health officials take different paths, noting that the San Francisco Bay Area is progressing at its own pace.
“The Bay Area is moving slower, other counties moving faster,” Newsom said. “It is what we designed over the course of weeks. What works in one area may not work in other areas. Each county has its own conditions.”