California Gov. Gavin Newsom faces a COVID quandary

Gov. Gavin Newsom is confronting yet another COVID-19 conundrum.

A little more than a month after California fully reopened, the state’s coronavirus positivity rate has skyrocketed from 0.7% to 5.2% — a figure not seen since early February. The highly contagious Delta variant now accounts for nearly 83% of California’s sequenced coronavirus cases — up from 53% in late June and just 6% in late May. The color-coded reopening system is gone, but if it were still in place, at least 12 counties would be in the most restrictive purple tier. And California’s mask mandate is over, but local health officials are either requiring or recommending around 50% of the state’s population wear face coverings indoors.

With the Sept. 14 recall election hanging over his head, Newsom has avoided commenting directly on whether he would reinstate mask requirements or lockdown measures, instead emphasizing the importance of getting vaccinated. The coronavirus case rate among vaccinated Californians was 2 per 100,000 during the week of July 7-14, compared to 13 per 100,000 among unvaccinated Californians, the state Department of Public Health said Friday. The department also noted that Newsom’s vaccine lottery program slowed the rate at which California’s inoculation rates were declining.