Gavin Newsom Pushes Toward California Reopening as Recall Petition Nears 2 Million

Embattled California Governor Gavin Newsom is ramping up vaccination efforts and hoping to reopen schools and indoor dining, as a campaign seeking his recall nears a major milestone.

Some Californians could return to a form of normality next month with plans to reopen restaurants and businesses in some counties, and with young children set to return to the classroom.

Under new legislation, announced by Gov Newsom on Monday, most of the 6.1 million state school students could return to class by April.

In a statement, Newsom said: "You can't reopen your economy unless you get your schools reopening for in-person instruction."

Newsom also announced the state would set aside $2 billion for districts that will get select groups of children into classrooms by the end of March.

It comes as coronavirus cases fall across the state from peaks in December and January.

The push to reopen California comes as a petition to recall Newsom nears 2 million signatures. Organizers said 1,927,000 million signatures had been gathered with two weeks to go before the March 17 deadline.

A total of 1,495,709 verified signatures—equal to 12 percent of the votes cast in the state election Newsom won—would be needed for a potential recall.

Some of the signatures still need to be verified.

In a statement on March 3, RecallGavin2020 organizer Orrin Heatlie said: "We have cleared another milestone, and now we are entering the final stretch of this part of the official campaign to remove California Governor Gavin Newsom from power and office."

Co-proponent Mike Netter added: "The people of California are speaking loud and clear, and we will continue to work tirelessly until the people of California become the final judge and jury on this recall.

"This is now a national and worldwide story. The media is dialed into our campaign and we will continue to tell the real story behind this movement."

Gavin Newsom faces a strong recall effort
Gov Newsom has carried out several engagements in the past few days. In this photo, Gov. Gavin Newsom watches as the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is prepared by Director of Inpatient Pharmacy David Cheng at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center on December 14, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Pool / Pool/Getty

Should the petition succeed in collecting enough signatures, a special recall election could happen later this year. Fellow Democrat Gray Davis was the last California Governor to be removed from office after a recall in 2003.

Newsom's approval ratings have dropped recently as he faced criticism over his handling of the state's coronavirus strategy.

The Democrat's lockdown policies differ to many of his Republican counterparts. Texas Governor Greg Abbott said on Tuesday that the state would lift its mask mandate, joining 15 other states, and let businesses open at 100 percent capacity from March 10

Responding to the recent policy change in Texas, Newsom told reporters on Thursday that California would not introduce similar lifting of restrictions.

"We will not be walking down their path," he said.

"We're mindful of your health and our future. I'll just note...that positivity rates in those states [are] substantially higher than even here in the state of California, and yet we still feel very, very strongly as we begin to loosen things up and reopen our economy that mask-wearing [becomes] now more essential as we transition to herd immunity and broad access to vaccines."

Newsweek has approached Newsom's office and the recall campaign for comment.