SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA -- After being out of the public eye for nearly two weeks, Gov. Gavin Newsom visited Southern California on Wednesday in an effort to encourage more people to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The governor made his first public appearance on Tuesday following increasing media coverage and criticism from Republicans about his whereabouts and what he was doing. He had last been seen on Oct. 27 when he got a booster shot.
At an economic summit in Monterey, Newsom said Tuesday that he chose to take his children trick or treating on Halloween instead of discussing climate change with world leaders in Scotland, explaining the decision to abruptly cancel his trip was driven by the simple desire of a working parent to spend more time with his kids.
On Wednesday morning, Newsom visited a COVID-19 vaccine and flu shot clinic in Los Angeles County to highlight the state's ongoing efforts to increase vaccination rates and promote booster shots for eligible people.
A recent increase in COVID cases has health officials concerned the rate of spread will also climb heading into the winter season.
"Winter is coming," the governor said. "Winter is here, and as we should be reminded, last year, we had a challenging winter, particularly down here in Southern California ... This, in so many ways, is part of a pattern that's familiar, and the one thing that can interrupt that pattern is the one thing we're here to promote."
According to Newsom, almost 90% of eligible adults in California have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine.
The state's coronavirus dashboard says nearly 159,000 people are getting a dose every day. (This is based on the average daily dose count over the course of seven days.)
Now that children ages 5-11 are eligible to get the Pfizer COVID vaccine, Newsom said nearly 100,000 kids in the state have been vaccinated, but there are still about 3.5 million children who haven't.
"We enjoyed the summer where we had the lowest case rates in America for a large portion the summer," said Newsom. "Just [Wednesday,] we went up to about 16th lowest and moved rather quickly. I say that not to alarm people, but to caution folks that it was around this time last year that folks started put down their masks a little bit, started to feel like we cannot, you know, spend more time together outside of our households and, understandably, together for the holidays. We're looking forward to all that. I'm looking forward to all of that, and seeing friends and families, I just want to remind people to do it with some common sense."
Pfizer asked U.S. regulators Tuesday to allow boosters of its vaccine for anyone 18 or older, a step that came amid concern about increased spread of the coronavirus with holiday travel and gatherings.
During Wednesday's news conference, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said people don't need to wait and urged anyone who wants a booster to "absolutely" get it.
The current rules: People who initially received Pfizer or Moderna vaccinations are eligible for a booster six months later if they're 65 or older, or are at high risk of COVID-19 because of health problems or their job or living conditions. Because the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine hasn't proven as effective as its two-dose competitors, any J&J recipient can get a booster at least two months later.
Also, anyone eligible for a booster doesn't have to stick with their initial vaccination type and can get a different company's vaccine, what's called mixing and matching.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.