As yesterday’s recall election in California approaches, Gov. Gavin Newsom and his critics have presented it as a judgment call on his handling of the pandemic. Newsom passed its promulgation of aggressive masks and vaccine warrants. His main Republican opponent, Larry Elder, has vowed to quash those terms before drinking his first cup of tea on his first day in office.

The recall, as my colleague Jennifer Medina wrote, has become a “referendum on the management of the pandemic”.

Now Newsom won this referendum in a landslide. According to the latest results, Californian voters rejected his impeachment by a 64% to 36% margin. The final margin may change as the vote count continues, but this was clearly a political victory for vaccination.

I don’t mean to say that the policy of Covid-19 is straightforward. They are not. Lockdown fatigue may have contributed to the surprisingly strong performance of Donald Trump and other Republican candidates in the 2020 election. And Democratic politicians in some places have favored measures – like outdoor mask warrants and shutdowns in the elections. ‘schools for months – which are both scientifically and politically dubious.

Newsom himself infamously had a meal with friends at one of the state’s best restaurants as his administration urged Californians not to reunite with people outside their homes. It played out in the most unfriendly parts of his image. Only a few weeks ago, polls suggested he was in danger of losing the recall.

But Newsom’s comprehensive approach to the pandemic helped save it.

It aligned very closely with what public health experts were calling for, including warrants for indoor masks and vaccinations, notes Soumya Karlamangla, a Times reporter based in Los Angeles. Initially, these measures detracted from Newsom’s popularity as they were heavy and didn’t seem to make much of a difference. In the spring, the number of cases in California was not that different from those in Florida or Texas.

“It is as if he is the perfect example of the conundrum that public health officials often face,” Soumya said. “How do you get people to do something before they can see the risk exists? “

More recently, the link has become clearer. Vaccination rates have risen enough in much of California – and the Delta variant is contagious enough among the unvaccinated – that the state is now very different from most parts of the Southeast and the mountains of the United States. west, where hundreds of people die every day and hospitals are functioning. out of the room.

In California, the number of Covid cases and hospitalizations, which were already well below the national average, have been declining for about two weeks. “Panic levels are much lower than just a month ago,” says Soumya.

On the contrary, state-wide comparisons underestimate the potency of vaccines; every state, including California, has areas with relatively low vaccination rates. When you look at California by county instead, the picture is striking.

Large metropolitan areas with the lowest Covid rates also happen to be the places where Democratic candidates like Newsom receive most of their votes in California.

The San Francisco Bay Area has a hospitalization rate that remains lower than the United States for much of this year, before Delta circulated widely. If the rest of the country looked like the Bay Area, the delta push wouldn’t have been so bad:

And at the individual level, vaccines are more effective than county data suggests. In San Francisco, most of those hospitalized are among the small share of residents who are not vaccinated.

California is obviously a dark blue state, and Newsom’s approach surely wouldn’t work as well in a red state. Yet its Covid policies are closer to what the median American voter favors than the Republican approach. Prominent Republicans have described the Covid vaccine mandates as tyrannical, even as all 50 states impose other vaccine mandates. Some Republicans have also banned businesses and schools from taking evidence-based action and promoted medical treatments that appear to do more harm than good.

In doing so, these politicians align themselves with a minority of Americans. Nationally, less than 25% of adults have yet to receive a Covid vaccine. Only 26% oppose a vaccination warrant in their workplace, according to an Associated Press poll last month. Vaccinations, as CNN’s Brian Stelter noted, are not a 50-50 problem.

No wonder, in the country’s most populous state, the public health consensus triumphed over its detractors yesterday.

Live theater has come back to life in New York over the summer, but last night was sort of a big reopening for Broadway, as “The Lion King,” “Wicked,” “Hamilton” and more returned on scene after 18 month hiatus.

Jessica Payne said she and her husband came from Colorado to see eight shows in six days. “We both cried when the plane landed,” she said. “We are so happy to be here.

Theaters require that all people 12 years of age and older be vaccinated and that everyone except performers wear a mask. Yet the recent resurgence of the virus may affect ticket sales: ticket vendor StubHub shows all three hit shows have seats available for under $ 200. And the Broadway League, a commercial group, is not releasing box office data this season for fear of undermining consumer confidence.

In The Times, Michael Paulson wrote about the comeback of Broadway, including an NFL-inspired program for artist voices. – Tom Wright-Piersanti, Morning Editor

Yesterday’s Spelling Bee pangram was men. Here is today’s puzzle – or you can play it online.

Here are today’s mini crosswords, and a hint: roof overhang (four letters).

If you want to play more, find all of our games here.

Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. Until tomorrow. – David

Clarification: The graph showing vaccination rates in California counties underestimates the rate in San Diego due to a known mismatch in CDC data.

PS Molly Young and Alexandra Jacobs join The Times’ book bureau as reviewers.

This is the first page printed today.

“The Daily” deals with Mexico’s path to legalizing abortion. On “The Argument”, a debate on the ethics of the football fandom. “Popcast” is about Drake.