“We were communicating with counties and businesses and sectors and industries, not with the public, what that modification meant and what it didn’t mean,” he said about a loosening in restrictions about two months after the March 2020 lockdown that was soon followed by a rise in cases. “And in hindsight, clearly, we could have done a much better job by informing the public what those modifications meant.”
Newsom, who has shifted back into campaign mode amid a massive recall effort led by Republicans, made the comments in an interview with The Associated Press on the eve of the one-year anniversary of his first-in-the-nation lockdown order last year. The original stay-at-home order forbade Californians from leaving the house except for work and other essential activities.
California is now in the midst of loosening restrictions once again as case numbers have fallen across the state, allowing indoor theaters and theme parks to reopen in certain places for the first time since the pandemic started.
The state of nearly 40 million people has recorded more than 3.5 million virus cases and nearly 56,000 deaths, both the largest totals in the country. California is the nation’s most populous state.
By July 3 last year, case numbers had risen and Newsom ordered some businesses to close again. Numbers went down in late summer before the largest spike amid the winter holidays, leading his administration to institute a color-coded tier system that some people still found confusing.
In recent weeks, Newsom has changed the metrics for leaving the most-restrictive purple tier and altered how schools, bars and other businesses can operate in each tier.
Cases have fallen dramatically as of this March.
Theme parks and baseball stadiums have been cleared to open in April with Disneyland planning to reopen April 30.
Many schools in the state also plan to reopen next month.
The administration is now planning for a “green tier” that would end many restrictions altogether. Newsom said he expects to reach that level “sooner than most people believe” but declined to be specific.
The state has administered around 13 million vaccinations so far – with those 65 and older, health care workers, educators and high-risk people the only ones eligible – and Newsom said he hopes to have everyone eligible by May 1, a date President Biden also requested of states.
On Monday, Newsom created a political committee to fight his recall effort, allowing him to raise unlimited funds. An election would likely come in the fall.
He has called the recall an effort by partisan extremists and Trump supporters.
Asked if his framing of the recall ignored the perspectives of non-partisans who have had their lives and livelihoods upended, Newsom said he understands their frustrations but noted the recall is backed by numerous major Republican donors, including the national party.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.