OAKLAND, Calif. — One of California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s children is quarantining after a school classmate tested positive for Covid-19, the governor’s office confirmed to POLITICO late Friday.
Newsom’s child was exposed at his private school and has been in a 14-day quarantine, communications director Nathan Click said in an email. POLITICO is not naming the school or child for privacy reasons.
It marked another rough turn for the Newsom family in a week where the governor has drawn harsh criticism for attending a 12-person dinner party at The French Laundry for a Sacramento lobbyist friend. The school exposure is likely to draw attention from teachers unions, who have called on the governor to close all campuses due to a surge in coronavirus cases.
"The family has taken the potential exposure seriously and is following all state protocols," Click said. “After being alerted by the school that a classmate tested positive for COVID-19, the potentially exposed Newsom child began a 14-day quarantine from the date of exposure in accordance with state public health guidance for schools."
Newsom received a rapid test this week that was negative and will get a nasal swab test this weekend, according to Click. All four Newsom children have tested negative, as has first partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom.
“The Newsom child was tested twice [5 days and 7 days past their last contact with the COVID-19 positive student]," Click said. "In addition, each of the Newsom children were also tested on Day 5.”
Click said that the governor, his wife and their three other children are not required to quarantine, according to state health guidelines that require the quarantine of only the person directly exposed to an infected person.
Newsom said late last month that his four children, ages 4 to 11, had returned to in-person learning at their Sacramento private school under a "phased-in approach." The school expanded to five days a week this month.
The governor has drawn fire because most of California’s 6 million public schoolchildren remain at home to do distance learning, as 20 of the 25 largest districts have opted to keep campuses shut, including the massive Los Angeles Unified School District. Assembly Education Chair Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach) this month called the situation "state-sanctioned segregation" because more affluent suburban families have returned to class while city public schools serving lower-income residents have largely stayed home. Many students have struggled with distance learning, based on early report cards showing increases in failure.
With Covid-19 surging at an unprecedented pace and the state setting daily case records, Newsom moved 41 counties — with 94 percent of the state’s population — into the most restrictive coronavirus purple tier this week. That makes it much more difficult for schools that never opened to bring students back, and it has put a chill in reopening talks for districts that were considering opening back up. School districts and private schools that have already opened — including the Newsoms’ — can still remain open in the purple tier under the governor’s rules.
Click said that Newsom "has made the safety of students and staff a priority during the COVID-19 pandemic and has fought to ensure that every child — whether in a classroom or at home — is learning." In a Nov. 6 letter sent to California’s mayors, Newsom noted that his most recent state budget "stabilized school funding and included a one-time investment of more than $5.3 billion in funds for local public schools to support learning and address barriers related to COVID-19."
But O’Donnell and other leaders say Newsom must do more. The state is projected to have a $26 billion "windfall" over the next 18 months, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, and Democratic legislative leaders have said some of that money should be spent on ensuring safety at schools.
The Sacramento private school the Newsoms attend will move to remote learning after Thanksgiving break through the second week of December, partly due to the higher risks associated with holiday activities next week, according to an email obtained by POLITICO. In order for students to return after that, they must obtain a negative Covid-19 test, and the school is offering testing to all students and staff.
The state’s largest teachers unions and school districts have demanded comparable precautions before they agree to reopen schools.
Newsom’s family exposure came in the same week that the governor made international headlines — and faced withering criticism — for attending a birthday dinner for lobbyist Jason Kinney at the exclusive French Laundry restaurant in Napa County. The dinner became fodder for cable hosts and editorials questioning what they considered the political hypocrisy of the governor, who has repeatedly urged Californians to avoid traveling for Thanksgiving, severely limit their socializing and avoid indoor dining to slow the spread of the virus.
Photos of the dinner, captured by Fox LA, showed the governor and Siebel Newsom sitting maskless alongside two top California Medical Association officials, CEO Dustin Corcoran and top lobbyist Janus Norman.
Though originally billed as an outdoor event, the photos showed diners at Kinney’s 50th birthday celebration in a room with three sides closed off, also raising questions about how Newsom defines “outdoor" dining in the pandemic — a definition that took on even more important meaning as most of the state was forced to close all indoor restaurant operations.
On Thursday, he ordered a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew starting Saturday in the 41 purple-tier counties. Residents must avoid venturing outside unless performing essential activities. The curfew will last until 5 a.m. on Dec. 21, more than a full month. Newsom said that he aimed to control the higher spread that occurs during activities fueled by inebriation and late-night antics, and he warned of "social activities and gatherings that have a higher likelihood of leading to reduced inhibition."