With 66% of the expected vote in, Newsom led with 5,619,538 votes, or 65.8%, against removing him from office, compared with 2,916,257 votes, or 34.2%, in favor of the recall.
Polls for in-person voting closed at 11 p.m. ET on Tuesday. Voters had been submitting mail-in ballots for a few weeks ahead of time.
Gavin Christopher Background
Gavin Christopher Newsom is an American politician and businessman serving as the 40th governor of California since January 2019. A member of the Democratic Party, he previously served as the 49th lieutenant governor of California from 2011 to 2019 and as the 42nd mayor of San Francisco from 2004 to 2011. He is a progressive leader who is a prominent advocate for LGBT rights, same-sex marriage, immigrant rights, universal health care, affordable housing to combat the housing shortage, environmental policies to combat climate change, a minimum wage, gun control, and the legalization of cannabis. Newsom attended Redwood High School and graduated from Santa Clara University. After graduation, he founded the PlumpJack wine store with family friend Gordon Getty as an investor. The PlumpJack Group grew to manage 23 businesses, including wineries, restaurants, and hotels. Newsom began his political career in 1996, when San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown appointed him to serve on the city's Parking and Traffic Commission. Brown appointed Newsom to fill a vacancy on the Board of Supervisors the following year, and Newsom was later elected to the board in 1998, 2000, and 2002.
In 2003, at the age of 36, Newsom was elected the 42nd mayor of San Francisco, becoming the city's youngest mayor in a century. Newsom was re-elected in 2007 with 72% of the vote. Newsom was elected lieutenant governor of California in 2010 and was re-elected in 2014. He was elected governor in the 2018 election. Newsom faced criticism for his response to the COVID-19 pandemic in California, the timing and scope of state COVID-19 restrictions, and the slow initial rollout of vaccines which led to an attempt to recall Newsom from office. Newsom easily prevailed in the 2021 recall election, becoming the second incumbent governor in the history of the United States to win a recall election.
Newsom hosted The Gavin Newsom Show on Current TV from 2012 to 2013 and wrote the 2013 book Citizenville, about using digital tools for democratic change.
Gavin Christopher Newsom was born in San Francisco, to Tessa Thomas and William Alfred Newsom III, a state appeals court judge and attorney for Getty Oil. He is a fourth-generation San Franciscan. One of Newsom's maternal great-grandfathers, Scotsman Thomas Addis, was a pioneer scientist in the field of nephrology and a professor of medicine at Stanford University. Newsom is the second cousin, twice removed, of musician Joanna Newsom.
His father was an advocate for otters and the family had one as a pet. Newsom's parents divorced in 1972 when Gavin was 5 years old.
Newsom later said he had not had an easy childhood, partly due to dyslexia. He attended kindergarten and first grade at Ecole Notre Dame Des Victoires, a French-American bilingual school in San Francisco, but eventually transferred out, due to the severe dyslexia that still affects him. It has challenged his abilities to write, spell, read, and work with numbers. Throughout his schooling, Newsom had to rely on a combination of audiobooks, digests, and informal verbal instruction. To this day, he prefers to interpret documents and reports through audio.
He attended third through fifth grades at Notre Dame des Victoires, where he was placed in remedial reading classes. In high school, Newsom played basketball and baseball and graduated from Redwood High School in 1985. Newsom was a shooting guard in basketball and an outfielder in baseball. His skills placed him on the cover of the Marin Independent Journal.
Newsom attended Santa Clara University on a partial baseball scholarship, where he graduated in 1989 with a Bachelor of Science in political science. Newsom was a left-handed pitcher for Santa Clara, but he threw his arm out after two years and has not thrown a baseball since. He lived in the Alameda Apartments, which he later compared to living in a hotel. He later reflected on his education fondly, crediting the Jesuit approach of Santa Clara with helping him become an independent thinker who questions orthodoxy. While in school, Newsom spent a semester studying abroad in Rome.
Newsom's aunt was married to Ron Pelosi, the brother-in-law of Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi.
Business career Newsom and his investors created the company PlumpJack Associates L.P on May 14, 1991. The group started the PlumpJack Winery in 1992 with the financial help of his family friend Gordon Getty. PlumpJack was the name of an opera written by Getty, who invested in 10 of Newsom's 11 businesses. Getty told the San Francisco Chronicle that he treated Newsom like a son and invested in his first business venture because of that relationship. According to Getty, later business investments were because of 'the success of the first.'
One of Newsom's early interactions with government occurred when Newsom resisted the San Francisco Health Department requirement to install a sink at his PlumpJack wine store. The Health Department argued that wine was a food and required the store to install a $27,000 sink in the carpeted wine shop on the grounds that the shop needed the sink for a mop. When Newsom was later appointed supervisor, he told the San Francisco Examiner: 'That's the kind of bureaucratic malaise I'm going to be working through.'
The business grew to an enterprise with more than 700 employees. The PlumpJack Cafe Partners L.P. opened the PlumpJack Café, also on Fillmore Street, in 1993. Between 1993 and 2000, Newsom and his investors opened several other businesses that included the PlumpJack Squaw Valley Inn with a PlumpJack Café , a winery in Napa Valley , the Balboa Café Bar and Grill , the PlumpJack Development Fund L.P. , the MatrixFillmore Bar , PlumpJack Wines shop Noe Valley branch , PlumpJackSport retail clothing , and a second Balboa Café at Squaw Valley . Newsom's investments included five restaurants and two retail clothing stores. Newsom's annual income was greater than $429,000 from 1996 to 2001. In 2002, his business holdings were valued at more than $6.9 million. Newsom gave a monthly $50 gift certificate to PlumpJack employees whose business ideas failed, because in his view, 'There can be no success without failure.'
Newsom sold his share of his San Francisco businesses when he became mayor in 2004. He maintained his ownership in the PlumpJack companies outside San Francisco, including the PlumpJack Winery in Oakville, California, new PlumpJack-owned Cade Winery in Angwin, California, and the PlumpJack Squaw Valley Inn. He is the president in absentia of Airelle Wines Inc., which is connected to the PlumpJack Winery in Napa County. Newsom earned between $141,000 and $251,000 in 2007 from his business interests. In February 2006, he paid $2,350,000 for his residence in the Russian Hill neighborhood, which he put on the market in April 2009 for $3,000,000.
Early political career
Newsom in 1999 Newsom's first political experience came when he volunteered for Willie Brown's successful campaign for mayor in 1995. Newsom hosted a private fundraiser at his PlumpJack Café. Brown appointed Newsom to a vacant seat on the Parking and Traffic Commission in 1996, and he was later elected president of the commission. Brown appointed him to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors seat vacated by Kevin Shelley in 1997. At the time, he was the youngest member of San Francisco's board of supervisors.
Newsom was sworn in by his father and pledged to bring his business experience to the board. Brown called Newsom 'part of the future generation of leaders of this great city. Newsom described himself as a 'social liberal and a fiscal watchdog'. He was subsequently elected to a full four-year term to the board in 1998. San Francisco voters chose to abandon at-large elections to the board for the previous district system in 1999. Newsom was re-elected in 2000 and 2002 to represent the second district, which includes Pacific Heights, the Marina, Cow Hollow, Sea Cliff and Laurel Heights, which had the highest income level and the highest Republican registration in San Francisco. Newsom paid $500 to the San Francisco Republican Party to appear on the party's endorsement slate in 2000. He faced no opposition in his 2002 re-election bid.
As a San Francisco Supervisor, Newsom gained public attention for his role in advocating reform of the city's municipal railway . He was one of two supervisors endorsed by Rescue Muni, a transit riders group, in his 1998 re-election. He sponsored Proposition B to require Muni and other city departments to develop detailed customer service plans. The measure passed with 56.6% of the vote. Newsom sponsored a ballot measure from Rescue Muni; a version of the measure was approved by voters in November 1999.
He also supported allowing restaurants to serve alcohol at their outdoor tables, banning tobacco advertisements visible from the streets, stiffer penalties for landlords who run afoul of rent-control laws, and a resolution, which was defeated, to commend Colin Powell for raising money for youth programs. Newsom's support for business interests at times strained his relationship with labor leaders.
During Newsom's time as supervisor, he supported housing projects through public-private partnerships to increase homeownership and affordable housing in San Francisco. He supported HOPE, a failed local ballot measure that would have allowed an increased condo-conversion rate if a certain percentage of tenants within a building were buying their units. As a candidate for mayor, he supported building 10,000 new housing units to create 15,000 new construction jobs. As governor, he also signed into law SB-7, which expedites the environmental review process for new multifamily developments worth at least least $15,000,000. To participate, developers must apply directly through the governor's office.
Newsom's signature achievement as a supervisor was a voter initiative called Care Not Cash , which offered care, supportive housing, drug treatment, and help from behavioral health specialists for the homeless in lieu of direct cash aid from the state's general assistance program. Many homeless rights advocates protested against the initiative. 'Progressives and Democrats, nuns and priests, homeless advocates and homeless people were furious,' according to Newsom. The successfully passed ballot measure raised his political profile and provided the volunteers, donors, and campaign staff that helped make him a leading contender for the mayorship in 2003. In a city audit conducted four years after the inception of program and released in 2008, the program was evaluated as largely successful.
Mayor of San Francisco Elections 2003 Main article: 2003 San Francisco mayoral election Newsom placed first in the November 4, 2003, general election in a nine-person field. He received 41.9% of the vote to Green Party candidate Matt Gonzalez's 19.6% in the first round of balloting, but he faced a closer race in the December 9 run-off when many of the city's progressive groups coalesced around Gonzalez. The race was partisan with attacks against Gonzalez for his support of Ralph Nader in the 2000 presidential election, and attacks against Newsom for contributing $500 to a Republican slate mailer in 2000 that endorsed issues Newsom supported. Democratic leadership felt that they needed to reinforce San Francisco as a Democratic stronghold after losing the 2000 presidential election and the 2003 gubernatorial recall election to Arnold Schwarzenegger. National figures from the Democratic Party, including Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and Jesse Jackson, campaigned on Newsom's behalf. Five supervisors endorsed Gonzalez, while Willie Brown endorsed Newsom.
Newsom won the run-off race, capturing 53% of the vote to Gonzalez's 47% and winning by 11,000 votes. He ran as a business-friendly centrist Democrat and a moderate in San Francisco politics; some of his opponents called him conservative. Newsom claimed he was a centrist in the Dianne Feinstein mold. He ran on the slogan 'great cities, great ideas', and presented over 21 policy papers. He pledged to continue working on San Francisco's homelessness issue.
Newsom was sworn in as mayor on January 3, 2004. He called for unity among the city's political factions, and promised to address the issues of public schools, potholes and affordable housing. Newsom said he was 'a different kind of leader' who 'isn't afraid to solve even the toughest problems'.
2007 Main article: 2007 San Francisco mayoral election San Francisco's progressive community tried to field a candidate to run a strong campaign against Newsom. Supervisors Ross Mirkarimi and Chris Daly considered running against Newsom, but both declined. Matt Gonzalez also decided not to rechallenge Newsom.
When the August 10, 2007, filing deadline passed, San Francisco's discussion shifted to talk about Newsom's second term. He was challenged in the election by 13 candidates that included George Davis, a nudist activist, and Michael Powers, owner of the Power Exchange sex club. Conservative former supervisor Tony Hall withdrew by early September due to lack of support.
The San Francisco Chronicle declared in August 2007 that Newsom faced no 'serious threat to his re-election bid', having raised $1.6 million for his re-election campaign by early August. He won re-election on November 6, 2007 with over 72% of the vote. Upon taking office for a second term, Newsom promised to focus on the environment, homelessness, health care, education, housing, and rebuilding San Francisco General Hospital.
Mayoralty Main article: Mayoralty of Gavin Newsom Newsom campaigning against Proposition 8 in 2008 As mayor, Newsom focused on development projects in Hunters Point and Treasure Island.
He gained national attention in 2004 when he directed the San Francisco city–county clerk to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, violating the state law passed in 2000. Implementation of Care Not Cash, the initiative he had sponsored as a supervisor, began on July 1, 2004. As part of the initiative, 5,000 more homeless people were given permanent shelter in the city. About 2,000 people had been placed into permanent housing with support by 2007. Other programs initiated by Newsom to end chronic homelessness included the San Francisco Homeless Outreach Team and Project Homeless Connect that placed 2,000 homeless into permanent housing and provided 5,000 additional affordable rental units in the city.
During a strike by hotel workers against a dozen San Francisco hotels, Newsom joined UNITE HERE union members on a picket line in front of the Westin St. Francis Hotel on October 27, 2004. He vowed that the city would boycott the hotels by not sponsoring city events at them until they agreed to a contract with workers. The contract dispute was settled in September 2006.
In 2005, Newsom pushed for a state law to allow communities in California to create policy restricting certain breeds of dogs.
He signed the law establishing Healthy San Francisco in 2007 to provide city residents with universal health care, the first city in the nation to do so.
Newsom came under attack from the San Francisco Democratic Party in 2009 for his failure to implement the City of San Francisco's sanctuary city rule, under which the city was to not assist U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The same year, Newsom received the Leadership for Healthy Communities Award, along with Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City and three other public officials, for his commitment to making healthful food and physical activity options more accessible to children and families. He hosted the Urban-Rural Roundtable in 2008 to explore ways to promote regional food development and increased access to healthy, affordable food. Newsom secured $8 million in federal and local funds for the Better Streets program, which ensures that public health perspectives are fully integrated into urban planning processes. He signed a menu-labeling bill into law, requiring that chain restaurants print nutrition information on their menus.
Newsom was named 'America's Most Social Mayor' in 2010 by Same point, based on analysis of the social media profiles of mayors from the 100 largest cities in the United States.
Same-sex marriage Newsom gained national attention in 2004 when he directed the San Francisco city–county clerk to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, violating state law. In August 2004, the Supreme Court of California annulled the marriages that Newsom had authorized, as they conflicted with state law. Still, Newsom's unexpected move brought national attention to the issues of same-sex marriage, solidifying political support for Newsom in San Francisco and in the LGBTQ+ community.
During the 2008 election, Newsom opposed Proposition 8, the ballot initiative to reverse the California Supreme Court ruling that there was a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. Proposition 8 supporters released a commercial featuring footage of Newsom saying the following in a speech regarding same-sex marriage: 'This door's wide open now. It's going to happen, whether you like it or not.' Some observers noted that polls shifted in favor of Proposition 8 following the release of the commercial; this, in turn, led to speculation that Newsom had inadvertently played a role in the passage of the amendment.
Official portrait of Newsom as lieutenant governor of California
Newsom campaigns for Jerry Brown for governor, October 2010 In April 2009, Newsom announced his intention to run for Governor of California in the 2010 election. He received the endorsement of former President Bill Clinton in September 2009. During the campaign, Newsom remarked that, if elected, he would like to be known as 'The Gavinator' . Throughout the campaign, however, Newsom suffered low poll numbers, trailing Democratic frontrunner Jerry Brown by more than 20 points in most polls. Newsom dropped out of the gubernatorial race in October 2009.
Newsom filed initial paperwork to run for lieutenant governor in February 2010, and officially announced his candidacy in March. He received the Democratic nomination in June and won the election on November 2, 2010. Newsom was sworn in as lieutenant governor on January 10, 2011, and served under Governor Jerry Brown. The one-week delay was to ensure that a successor as mayor of San Francisco was chosen before he left office. Edwin M. Lee, the city administrator, took office the day after Newsom was sworn in as lieutenant governor. He debuted on Current TV as the host of The Gavin Newsom Show in May 2012. That same month, Newsom drew criticism for negative comments about Sacramento, referring to the state capital as 'dull' and commenting that he was only there once a week, saying 'there's no reason' to be there otherwise.
2014 See also: 2014 California lieutenant gubernatorial election Newsom was re-elected as Lieutenant Governor of California on November 4, 2014, defeating Republican Ron Nehring with 57.2% of the vote. His second term began on January 5, 2015.
Capital punishment Newsom supported a failed measure in 2012 that sought to end capital punishment in California. He claimed the initiative would save California millions of dollars, citing statistics that California had spent $5 billion since 1978 to execute just 13 people.
Newsom also supported failed Proposition 62 in 2016, which also would have repealed the death penalty in California. He argued that Prop 62 would get rid of a system 'that is administered with troubling racial disparities.' He also stated that the death penalty was fundamentally immoral and did not deter crime.
Criminal justice and cannabis legalization In 2014, Newsom was the only statewide politician to endorse California Proposition 47, a piece of legislation that recategorized certain non-violent offenses like drug and property crimes as misdemeanors as opposed to felonies. Voters passed the measure in the state of California on November 4, 2014.
In July 2015, Newsom released the Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy's final report, which he had convened with the American Civil Liberties Union of California in 2013. The report's recommendations to regulate marijuana were intended to inform a legalization measure on the November 2016 ballot. Newsom supported the resulting measure, Proposition 64, which legalized cannabis use and cultivation for California state residents who are 21 or older.
In response to pro-enforcement statements made by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, Newsom sent a letter on February 24, 2017, to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and President Donald Trump, urging them not to increase federal enforcement against recreational cannabis firms opening in California. He wrote, 'The government must not strip the legal and publicly supported industry of its business and hand it back to drug cartels and criminals ... Dealers don't card kids. I urge you and your administration to work in partnership with California and the other eight states that have legalized recreational marijuana for adult use in a way that will let us enforce our state laws that protect the public and our children while targeting the bad actors.' Newsom responded to comments by Spicer, which compared cannabis to opioids saying, 'Unlike marijuana, opioids represent an addictive and harmful substance, and I would welcome your administration's focused efforts on tackling this particular public health crisis.'
Education Newsom joined Long Beach City College Superintendent Eloy Oakley in a November 2015 op-ed calling for the creation of the California College Promise, which would create partnerships between public schools, public universities, and employers and offer a free community college education. Throughout 2016, he joined Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf at the launch of the Oakland Promise and Second Lady Jill Biden and Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti at the launch of the LA Promise. In June 2016, Newsom helped secure $15 million in the state budget to support the creation of promise programs throughout the state.
In December 2015, Newsom called on the University of California to reclassify computer science courses as a core academic class to incentivize more high schools to offer computer science curriculum. He sponsored successful legislation signed by Governor Brown in September 2016, that began the planning process for expanding computer science education to all state students, beginning as early as kindergarten.
In 2016, Newsom passed a series of reforms at the University of California to provide student-athletes with additional academic and injury-related support, and to ensure that contracts for athletic directors and coaches emphasized academic progress. This came in response to several athletics programs, including the University of California – Berkeley's football team, which garnered the lowest graduation rates in the country.
Technology in government Newsom released his first book, Citizenville: How to Take the Town Square Digital and Reinvent Government, on February 7, 2013. The book discusses the Gov 2.0 movement that is taking place across the United States. Following its release, Newsom began to work with the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society at the University of California, Berkeley, on the California Report Card . The CRC is a mobile-optimized platform that allows state residents to 'grade' their state on six timely issues. The CRC exemplifies ideas presented in Newsom's Citizenville, encouraging direct public involvement in government affairs via technology.
In 2015, Newsom partnered with the Institute for Advanced Technology and Public Policy at California Polytechnic State University to launch Digital Democracy, an online tool that uses facial and voice recognition to enable users to navigate California legislative proceedings.
Results of the 2018 California gubernatorial election; Newsom won the counties in blue See also: 2018 California gubernatorial election On February 11, 2015, Newsom announced that he was opening a campaign account for governor in the 2018 elections, allowing him to raise funds for a campaign to succeed Jerry Brown as Governor of California. On June 5, 2018, he finished in the top two of the nonpartisan blanket primary, and defeated Republican John H. Cox by a landslide in the gubernatorial election on November 6.
Newsom was sworn in on January 7, 2019.
2021 recall Main article: 2021 California gubernatorial recall election Several recall attempts were launched against Newsom early in his tenure, though they failed to gain much traction. On February 21, 2020, a recall petition was introduced by Orrin Heatlie, a deputy sheriff in Yolo County, California. The petition said Newsom favored illegal immigrants; that California had high homelessness, high taxes, and low quality of life; and other grievances. It was approved for circulation on June 10, 2020, by the California Secretary of State.
The recall effort gained momentum in June 2020 as a result of his response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some reasons included being too slow to re-open from lockdowns, or being too strict with lockdowns. It was initially given a signature deadline of November 17, but it was extended to March 17, 2021, after a ruling by Judge James P. Arguelles. The petition received the support of California Republican Party Chairwoman Jessica Milan Patterson and former mayor of San Diego Kevin Faulconer. Newsom's 2018 challenger, John H. Cox, donated $50,000 to the recall campaign.
In January 2021, the number of signatures for the recall campaign reached one million. It needed 1,495,709 valid signatures before March 17, 2021, to be on the ballot. The proponents' goal was to get two million signatures. By February 2021, the recall campaign reported having 1.3 million signatures, including about 300,000 from registered Democrats. Faulconer and Cox have both announced their intentions to run in the event of a recall election. On February 12, 2021, the organizers of the campaign announced that they surpassed the required 1.5 million signature threshold needed to trigger a recall election against Newsom.
Appointments Following California Senator Kamala Harris' win alongside Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election, Newsom appointed Secretary of State of California Alex Padilla to succeed Harris as the junior United States Senator. To replace Padilla as Secretary of State, Newsom appointed Assemblywoman Shirley Weber. After the confirmation by the U.S. Senate of Xavier Becerra as U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Newsom appointed Rob Bonta as Attorney General of California. In an interview with Joy Reid on The ReidOut, Newsom was asked whether he would appoint a Black woman to replace Dianne Feinstein if she were to retire from the Senate before her term ended in 2024. Newsom replied that he would.
Capital punishment See also: Capital punishment in California On March 13, 2019, three years after voters narrowly rejected its repeal, Newsom declared a moratorium on the state's death penalty, preventing any execution in the state as long as he remained governor. The move also led to the withdrawal of the state's current lethal injection protocol and the execution chamber's closure at San Quentin State Prison. In a CBS This Morning interview, Newsom said that the death penalty is 'a racist system ... that is perpetuating inequality. It's a system that I cannot in good conscience support.' The moratorium grants a temporary reprieve for all 737 inmates on California's death row, which is the largest death row in the Western Hemisphere.
Clemency In response to the Trump administration's crackdown on immigrants with criminal records, he has given heightened consideration to people in this situation. A pardon can eliminate the grounds for deportation of immigrants who would otherwise be legal permanent residents. Pardon requests from people facing deportation are provided with an expedited review by the state Board of Parole Hearings per a 2018 California law. In his first acts of clemency as Governor, he pardoned seven formerly incarcerated people in May 2019, including two Cambodian refugees facing deportation. He pardoned three men who were attempting to avoid being deported to Cambodia or Vietnam in November 2019. They had separately committed crimes when they were each 19 years old. He granted parole to a Cambodian refugee in December 2019 who had been held in a California prison due to a murder case. Although immigrant rights groups wanted Newsom to end policies allowing the transfer to federal agents, he was turned over for possible deportation upon release.
COVID-19 pandemic For broader coverage of this topic, see COVID-19 pandemic in California. Newsom declared a state of emergency on March 4, 2020, after the first death in California attributable to coronavirus disease . His stated intention was to help California prepare for and contain the spread of the COVID-19. The emergency declaration allowed state agencies to more easily procure equipment and services, share information on patients and alleviated restrictions on the use of state-owned properties and facilities. Newsom also announced that mitigation policies for the state's estimated 108,000 unsheltered homeless people would be prioritized with a significant push to move them indoors.
Newsom issued an executive order that allowed the state to commandeer hotels and medical facilities to treat COVID-19 patients, and permitted government officials to hold teleconferences in private without violating open meeting laws. He also directed local school districts to make their own decisions on school closures, but used an executive order to ensure students' needs would be met whether or not their school was physically open. The Newsom administration's request was approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to offer meal service during school closures, which included families being able to pick up those meals at libraries, parks, or other off-campus locations. Roughly 80% of students at California's public schools receive free or reduced-price meals. This executive order included continued funding for remote learning opportunities and child care options during workday hours.
As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state continued to rise, on March 15, he urged people 65 and older and those with chronic health conditions to isolate themselves from others. He also called on bars, and brewery and winery tasting rooms statewide, to close their doors to patrons. Some local jurisdictions had mandatory closures. The closures were extended to movie theaters and health clubs. He asked restaurants to stop serving meals inside their establishments and offer take-out meals only. His statewide order to stay at home became mandatory on March 19. While it allowed movement outside the home for necessities or recreation, people were required to maintain a safe distance apart. Activity 'needed to maintain continuity of operation of the federal critical infrastructure sectors, critical government services, schools, childcare, and construction' was excluded from the order. Essential services such as grocery stores and pharmacies remained open. Newsom provided state funds to pay for protective measures such as hotel room lodging for hospital and other essential workers fearing returning home and infecting family members. By April 26, he had issued thirty executive orders under the state of emergency while the legislature had not been in session.
On April 28, Newsom, along with the governors of Oregon and Washington, announced a shared vision for reopening their economies. His administration outlined key indicators for altering his stay-at-home mandate, including the ability to closely monitor and track potential cases, prevent infection of high-risk people, increase surge capacity at hospitals, develop therapeutics, ensure physical distancing at schools, businesses, and child-care facilities, and develop guidelines for restoring isolation orders if the virus surges. The plan to end the shutdown consisted of four phases. Newsom emphasized that easing restrictions would be based on data, not dates, stating 'We will base reopening plans on facts and data, not on ideology. Not what we want. Not what we hope.' Regarding a return of Major League Baseball and the NFL, he said, 'I would move very cautiously in that expectation.'
In early May, he announced that certain retailers could reopen for pickup. While the majority of Californians approved of the governor's handling of the crisis and were more concerned about reopening too early than too late, there were demonstrations and protests against these policies. Under pressure, Newsom delegated more decision-making for reopening down to the local level. That same month, Newsom announced a plan for registered voters to have the option to vote by mail in the November election. California was the first state in the country to commit to sending mail-in ballots to all registered voters for the November general election.
As the state opened up, an analysis by the Los Angeles Times found that new coronavirus hospitalizations in California began accelerating around June 15 at a rate not seen since early April, immediately after the coronavirus began rapidly spreading throughout the state. On June 18, he made face-coverings mandatory for all Californians in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Enforcement would be up to business owners, as local law enforcement agencies view non-compliance as a minor infraction. By the end of June, he had ordered seven counties to close bars and nightspots, and recommended eight other counties take action on their own to close those businesses due to a surge of coronavirus cases in some parts of the state. In a regular press conference on July 13 as he was ordering the reinstatement of the shutdown of bars and indoor dining in restaurants, he said, 'We're seeing an increase in the spread of the virus, so that's why it's incumbent upon all of us to recognize soberly that COVID-19 is not going away any time soon until there is a vaccine or an effective therapy.
In January 2021, the Los Angeles Times reported that Newsom's administration had mismanaged $11.4 billion by disbursing unemployment benefits to ineligible claimants, especially those paid through the federally funded Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. Another $19 billion in claims remained under investigation for fraud. At the same time, legitimate claimants faced lengthy delays in receiving benefits. Political opponents attributed the crisis to Newsom's administration's failure to heed multiple warnings by federal officials of the potential for fraud, while Newsom's administration said the Trump administration's failure to provide appropriate guidance for the new federally funded program contributed to the fraud. Experts said much of the fraud appeared to originate from international criminal gangs in 20 different countries. According to the Los Angeles Times, $400 million in claims were disbursed to claims made on behalf of prison inmates.
Newsom oversaw a sluggish initial rollout of vaccines; California had one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country by January 2021, and California had only used about 30% of the vaccines it had at its disposal, a far lower rate than other states, by January 20. After reaching high approval ratings, specifically 64% in September 2020, a UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll from February 2021 showed that Newsom's approval rate was down to 46%, with 48% disapproval, the highest of his tenure. The Los Angeles Times attributed this decline to public sentiment around his management during the COVID-19 pandemic. The vaccination rate increased since January, with over half the population fully vaccinated as of September 2021, the percentage ranking 16 out of the 50 states.
Despite Newsom's administration enacting some of the country's toughest pandemic restrictions, California ultimately had the 29th-highest death rate out of all 50 states by May 2021. Monica Gandhi, a leading COVID-19 expert from UCSF, said that California's restrictive approach 'did not lead to better health outcomes', and criticized California's delay in implementing new CDC recommendations absolving the fully vaccinated from most indoor mask requirements, while saying the decision lacked scientific rationale and could cause 'collateral damage'.