It's been nearly a year-and-a-half since Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a COVID-19 emergency in California. Virtually every aspect of California life has been impacted by the pandemic, from work to worship, recreation to education.
Now, with a recall election in full swing, California voters get to weigh in on Newsom's job performance during the pandemic. Voters have until Sept. 14 to turn in their ballots.
The ballot asks voters two questions: Should Gov. Newsom be recalled from office and, if so, who should replace him as governor? There are 46 candidates lined up to take the job, though one has since dropped out for health issues.
Here's what each of the candidates, as well as Newsom, has to say about the COVID-19 pandemic and how it should be handled in California.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has provided voters with plenty of evidence for how he would handle the pandemic.
It was Newsom who declared a statewide emergency that ultimately led to much of the state closing down. Newsom also issued a statewide mandate that Californians where masks when outside their homes. It ended in June, although some counties have reinstated local mask requirements.
More recently, Newsom, who is vaccinated, has been aggressive in promoting the COVID-19 vaccine. That includes ordering mandatory vaccination for health care workers, and requiring that other state workers either get the vaccination or else submit to regular testing. Newsom likewise ordered mandatory vaccination or testing for California teachers.
Newsom has warned that the progress California has made in combating the COVID-19 pandemic "could be wiped away" if he is recalled from his position and a Republican elected in his stead.
Republican businessman John Cox has blasted Newsom for closing down California's schools during the height of the pandemic, accusing the governor of bowing to teachers unions. Cox lost to Newsom in the 2018 election.
Cox has said he might prevent local governments from imposing vaccine mandates, but would allow school boards to decide whether to require masks in school.
Cox is vaccinated and had the virus in early 2020. While he has said that the state should protect its vulnerable populations, including those with preexisting conditions, he has accused Newsom's administration of fear-mongering about the disease that has killed some 631,000 Americans.
"We can eliminate all highway deaths if we all drive at 10 mph. Well, we're not about to do that," Cox said at a recent debate.
Conservative talk radio host Larry Elder, who is leading in the polls relative to other recall candidates, has been critical of Newsom over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At a rally in Fresno, Elder vowed to repeal any and all vaccine and face mask mandates "before I have my first cup of tea" as governor.
Though he is opposed to vaccine mandates, Elder has spoken in favor of people getting vaccinated, and he has received the vaccine himself.
"I have been vaccinated, I believe vaccines work. I'm an old man, I have comorbidities, I support people to get the vaccine," Elder told The Sacramento Bee Editorial Board in an interview.
Elder has had anti-vaccine activists on his radio show, including a Texas doctor who falsely claimed that the COVID-19 vaccine is part of an effort by Bill Gates to control the population, as reported by HuffPost.
Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer has criticized Newsom for handling the COVID-19 pandemic in California with a "one-size-fits-all" approach.
Faulconer, who is vaccinated, said that he supports an approach of educating the public about the importance of getting vaccinated.
"The No. 1 way that we can get over COVID-19 is to have everyone get the vaccine," Faulconer said at a recent debate.
What Faulconer does not support, like his fellow Republicans in the race, is a statewide mandate, whether for vaccines or mask wearing.
"We're not going to mandate our way out of COVID-19," Faulconer has said.
Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, R-Rocklin, opposes any kind of vaccine mandate in California.
The Republican assemblyman introduced a bill earlier this year that would have prohibited state and local governments, as well as private entities receiving state money, from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of receiving a service or entering into a place.
That bill has been held in committee without a vote.
Kiley has said that the decision of whether a child should wear a mask to school "should be in the hands of parents."
Youtube personality Kevin Paffrath, the highest-polling Democratic candidate in the recall election, says that better masking and better building air filtration are necessary to fight COVID-19 in the state.
"The reality is, we need N95 masking," Paffrath said at a recent debate.
He has promised to provide N95 respirator masks to every Californian who needs them.
Paffrath, who is vaccinated, has said that he believes vaccination is important, and that he would "potentially" support incentives of up to $250 for every adult who gets one.
As for mandates, Paffrath said that every business and every school should have the right to set its own rules regarding masks and vaccination requirements.
"I do agree with mandates. I agree with mandates on a local level though, not from the governor's office," he said.