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Newsom’s COVID Briefings Often Leave More Questions Than Answers, Some Officials say

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Once a reassuring elixir to millions of Californians facing the harrowing unknowns of a contagious, deadly virus, California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s frequent COVID-19 briefings — streamed on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter and covered extensively by California news outlets — appear to have lost the impact they commanded in the spring.

Part of that can be blamed on natural fatigue after being imprisoned by a pandemic for 10 months, making people more likely to tune out, observers say.

But Newsom himself may share much of the blame. The governor, who had already come to embody the left in this polarized nation, used the briefings to cement himself as the sole voice of the state’s response — inflaming the politicization of the pandemic, while at the same time boosting his name recognition in California and beyond its borders.

Critics say the governor frequently hypes announcements and keeps local government and public officials in the dark about his plans.

“Newsom strikes me a little bit as wanting to limit the outflow of information and to not invite questions that will just get you in trouble or something like that,” said Joseph S. Tuman, a professor of political and legal communications at San Francisco State. He adds that the possibility of a recall appears to be influencing the governor’s messaging.

“It’s sort of a defensive posture, and that’s not helpful to him right now.”

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