While other states continue to drop mask mandates, California is taking more courageous steps in the fight against COVID-19, recognizing that coronavirus may not go away but making a plan to deal with it and live with it.
Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday announced the first shift from a state to an “endemic” approach to the pandemic, emphasizing prevention and rapid response to outbreaks of mandates, a milestone nearly two years along the way that suggests a return to a more normal existence .
“We have all come to understand what was not understood at the beginning of this crisis, that there is no end, that there is not a moment where we declare victory,” Newsom said.
Instead of trying to put out the virus, Newsom said the state would shift away from crisis mentality and focus on preparing for the inevitable twists and turns COVID-19 may provide in the future.
His administration has devised an easy-to-remember acronym for the new strategy: SMARTER, which stands for Shots, Masks, Awareness, Readiness, Testing, Education and Rx, the last of which refers to prescription drugs against COVID-19.
California on Wednesday finalized requirements for indoor masks for vaccinated people and will announce on Feb. 28 how long the mandate for schools will remain in place.
The approach will focus on increasing vaccination and testing, combating misinformation, stockpiling medical supplies and flooding areas of virus rise with temporary medical staff. The plan also calls for increased state surveillance, including increased surveillance of virus residues in wastewater to keep an eye on the first signs of an increase.
California’s new direction is in line with recent comments from President’s adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci, who told Reuters in an interview that as the omicron wave subsides, the United States must balance the need to protect the population with growing pandemic fatigue and begin to move toward normality. Weekly new infections are at their lowest point in two months.
“The world and the United States, and especially certain parts of the United States, are right up here with COVID, they just really need to get their lives back,” Fauci said. “You do not want to be ruthless and throw everything aside, but you have to start moving towards it.”
Also in the news:
►Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said listening to students’ input should be one of the key elements in use the pandemic as a “reset button” to consider the best approaches to teaching.
Concerns that an anime convention in New York City last November could become a superspreader turned out to be unfounded, according to the CDC, which said on Thursday that masking, vaccination and good ventilation limited the number of infections to 119 among the an estimated 53,000 who participated in the three-day event.
►Washington Governor Jay Inslee said the state would drop its mask mandates for everyone, including schools, by March 21st.
►Adidas dropped its mandatory vaccination requirement for US employees, citing the Supreme Court’s decision to block the proposed federal requirement. “Although it is no longer necessary, we strongly urge all employees to be vaccinated,” the company said in a statement to USA TODAY.
►USA on Wednesday reached 100,000 reported COVID-19 deaths for 2022, data from John Hopkins University shows. It 100,000. deaths in 2020 were reported on May 23, when the first wave was about to end. It 100,000. deaths in 2021 were reported on February 2nd.
📈Today’s figures: The United States has registered more than 78 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 930,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 419 million cases and over 5.8 million deaths. More than 214 million Americans – 64.5% – are fully vaccinated, according to Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
📘 What we read: Every week, the CDC updates its list countries that should be avoided because of the COVID-19 risk. After nearly two years of living in the pandemic, travelers ignore the agency’s guidance.
A subvariant of omicron, which the CDC says is 1.5 times more contagious than its better-known cousin, has quietly been on its way to dozens of countries and U.S. states, living up to its nickname “stealth omicron.”
A new study from Japan says it is worthy of more attention and even its own Greek alphabet.
The research showed that the BA.2 line of the original omicron (BA.1) is not only more contagious but also more pathogenic – capable of producing disease – and more resistant to immunity derived from previous infection.
“Our multiscale studies suggest that the risk for BA.2 for global health is potentially higher than for BA.1,” the researchers said.
It should be pointed out that the researchers relied on data from laboratory experiments with hamsters, which may not be directly translatable to humans. And experts believe that current vaccines, when combined with boosters, offer strong protection against serious illness from both versions of omicron, which have been shown to be more transmissible but less virulent than its predecessor delta.
CDC says that omicron BA.2 is only 3.9% of the coronavirus cases sequenced in the United States compared to 96.1% for BA.1. But “stealth omicron” has become dominant in countries such as South Africa – where the variant was first identified – India, the Philippines, Austria, Denmark and Singapore.
Researchers say at the very least that BA.2 should stand alone and be recognized as a variant of concern.
“Our data indicate that BA.2 is virologically different from BA.1,” they say, “and raise a suggestion that BA.2 should have a letter in the Greek alphabet and be separated from BA.1, a widely recognized omicron variant. ”
Busloads of police officers came down to downtown Ottawa on Thursday, handing out warnings to protesters to abandon the three-week-long demonstration in which more than 300 parked trucks have clogged streets and angered many residents of the Canadian capital. Workers began setting up fences outside parliament, with the infamous Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declaring that it was “high time these illegal and dangerous activities stop.”
Some of the Freedom Convoy protesters were untouched. Pat King said he was ready to “see them hit me with pepper spray.” He dismissed threats to have the trucks towed away, saying towing truck operators would not touch the parked vehicles.
California officials on Thursday will unveil a plan for coexistence with coronavirus, which scientists say could last for years. The plan assumes that the state is heading into an endemic phase where the virus still exists in society but becomes manageable as immunity builds. This week, California lifted its most recent mandate for indoor masking, and officials said they would announce by the end of the month when the mask requirement for schools would be dropped.
“The focus will be on being prepared and ready,” said California Health Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington estimates that 73% of Americans are currently immune to the omicron variant, a figure that means future increases will create far less disruption to society, some experts say.
The institute states that about half of eligible Americans have received coronavirus booster shots, plus there have been close to 80 million confirmed infections – and many more that have never been reported. All good signs in the fight for immunity. The IHME estimates that the immunity rate could reach 80% by mid-March.
The notion of a “herd immunity” that could bring the pandemic to a screaming halt has disappeared amid variants, declining immunity, and vaccination dust among millions of Americans. But immunity figures should prevent or reduce new diseases in protected humans and reduce the amount of viruses that generally circulate, which is likely to ease the brutal impact seen in previous waves, experts agree.
“I’m optimistic, even if we have an increase in the summer, cases will increase, but hospitalizations and deaths will not,” said Ali Mokdad, a UW professor working on the institute model, who calculated the figure at 73%.
More than 50 million American households have received free COVID-19 test kit at home that began going out in late January, according to a White House official. “85% of the first orders are now out the door. And over the next few days, we will complete the shipment of all the initial orders,” White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said at a news briefing on Wednesday.
That The Biden administration ordered 1 billion tests must be sent through the U.S. Postal Service to Americans who sign up via COVIDTests.gov. Each household was eligible for four home tests, regardless of the number of household members.
The U.S. Postal Service said tests will be shipped within seven to 12 days of ordering, and all orders are shipped via First-Class Package Service, but many Americans who ordered tests as soon as they were available Jan. 18 still have not received an email with tracking information when their order is shipped.
“Once the package is shipped, over 60% will be delivered within 24 hours and 90% within 48 hours,” Zients said.
During the first year of the pandemic, organ transplants fell by half. But the shortage did not last long.
Last year, a record 41,354 transplants were performed, according to preliminary data from the United Network for Organ Sharing, is the first time the United States has ever exceeded 40,000 transplants. Dr. Matthew Cooper, chairman of the board of UNOS, said the organization continues to see transplantation “increase significantly.”
Despite obstacles created by the pandemic, a harmonious combination of technological advances, collaboration between medical facilities and solidarity among Americans drove life-saving transplants up into 2021, experts say.
A summary of data from the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network shows that donors with loose COVID-19, who are still testing positive 21 to 90 days after disease onset, are unlikely to transmit the infection. So far, the CDC has only reported three cases of donor-derived COVID-19 to lung recipients.
There have been no cases of COVID-19 transmission to non-lung recipients.
– Adrianna Rodriguez, USA TODAY
Starring: Mike Stucka, USA TODAY; Associated Press