California shifts gears to confront the post-pandemic phase of COVID-19
California shifts gears to confront the post-pandemic phase of COVID-19

California shifts gears to confront the post-pandemic phase of COVID-19

Restaurants reopen as people still wear their masks amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, in Los Angeles, California, USA, on February 8, 2022. REUTERS / David Swanson / File Photo

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LOS ANGELES, February 17 (Reuters) – California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday unveiled a plan to confront COVID-19 beyond its pandemic phase, focusing on preparedness, vigilance and vaccines as the country’s most populous state moves from a crisis approach to to “live with this virus.”

The highlights of the strategy include more storage of masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE), a “myth-breaking campaign” to counter disinformation and greater wastewater virus surveillance to stay ahead of new outbreaks and new variants.

The plan also calls for maintaining a capacity to administer at least 500,000 screening tests and 200,000 vaccines a day, along with a shift in messages urging the public to stay up to date on their booster shots.

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Other key elements include a 25% increase in school-based grafting sites and a major expansion of the state’s health and human workforce.

“What we’re announcing here today is about turning the page, moving … from a crisis mindset to living with this virus,” Newsom said as he spoke at a PPE warehouse in San Bernardino, east of Los Angeles.

While the plan signals a “pull out of the pandemic phase”, the governor added: “We are not moving away from this virus because the virus continues to change and mutate”.

Newsom, who said California is the first state to formulate a comprehensive post-pandemic strategy, also stressed that the plan was designed to pay special attention to colored communities and the working poor, who have borne the brunt of the pandemic and remain the most vulnerable.

The latest approach comes nearly two years after California, home to some 40 million people, became the first to impose nationwide stay-at-home orders and mandatory corporate closures in early March 2020.

Since then, restrictions on social and economic life across the country have been eased and tightened through various waves of the virus that have killed more than 82,000 Californians and claimed well over 900,000 lives nationwide.

California joined several states earlier this month to announce plans to roll mask mandates back to schools and other public places in the coming weeks as an increase in COVID-19 infections driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant loosened its grip.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s health and human secretary, said the change reflects declining caseloads and higher levels of immunity in a state where 75% of eligible residents are fully vaccinated and many have contracted the virus.

The federal government is moving in the same direction. On Wednesday, the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator, Jeff Zients, told reporters that the Biden administration was moving from a state of emergency to a phase where “it is something we can protect against and address.”

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Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; Editing Raju Gopalakrishnan

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