California became the first state to formally switch to an “endemic” approachwith Governor Gavin Newsom announcing Thursday a plan emphasizing prevention and prompt response to outbreaks of mandatory masking and corporate shutdowns.
The milestone, nearly two years in the making, envisages a return to a more normal life using a series of initiatives and billions in new spending to more quickly detect increases or variations, add healthcare professionals, stock test and push back against false claims and other misinformation.
“We are moving past the crisis phase to a phase where we will work to live with this virus,” he said during a news conference from a state warehouse filled with pandemic supplies in Fontana, east of Los Angeles.
The first term Democrat last yeardriven by critics of his government during the pandemic, the state’s nearly 40 million people promised that as the Omicron rise disappears, “we will keep them safe and we will stay on top of this.”
A disease reaches the endemic stage when the virus still exists in a community but becomes manageable as immunity builds up.
But there will be no final turn of the switch, the Democratic governor said, unlike the case of Wednesdayor an announcement coming on February 28 about exactly when school children can stop wearing face clothing.
And there will be no immediate repeal of the dozens of remaining executive emergency orders that have helped run the state since Newsom introduced the country’s first nationwide stay-at-home order in March 2020.
“This pandemic will not have a defined end. There is no finish line,” Newsom said.
The World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic on March 11, 2020, and with Omicron fading in many parts of the world, some countries have begun planning the endemic phase. But no state has taken the step Newsom took and offered a detailed forward-looking plan.
Republicans have been frequent critics of Newsom’s handling of the coronavirus and were quick to downplay his recent efforts. State GOP President Jessica Millan Patterson called it “an extra large portion of word salad” and renewed the call to “followand end its state of emergency or revoke its school mask mandate. “
Newsom’s plan sets specific goals, such as storing 75 million masks, setting up the infrastructure to provide up to 200,000 vaccinations and 500,000 tests a day in the event of an outbreak, and adding 3,000 medical workers within three weeks in surge areas.
Newsom’s administration came up with a shorthand acronym to encapsulate key elements of its new approach: SMARTER. The letters stand for Shots, Masks, Awareness, Readiness, Testing, Education and Rx, a reference to improving treatments for COVID-19.
Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, an epidemiologist at the University of Southern California, said that while some might argue that these should have come earlier, he believes “the timing is right.”
“Surveillance, testing, vaccination and treatment make the context very different and make it appropriate to shift our response from a pandemic response of trying to do everything possible to a more rational response to trying to implement things for which we have strong evidence. that works, Klausner said.
The plan includes increased monitoring of virus residues in wastewater to keep an eye on the first signs of an increase. Masks will not be required but will be encouraged in many settings.
If a higher level of the virus is detected, the health authorities will decide if it is a new variant. If so, state and federal officials have a goal of determining within 30 days whether it responds to existing tests, treatments, and immunities from vaccines or previous infections.
California Health Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly, said one of the goals is to avoid corporate closures and other far-reaching mandates. He said, however, that the state’s requirement for school children to be vaccinated against coronavirus before the fall remains in effect.
The plan includes new training, including “myth-buster videos” to combat misinformation and misinformation and help interpret ever-evolving measures for a confused public whipped up by security measures that seem to change from day to day and vary across county lines.
In coordination with the federal government, it calls for a first-in-nation study of the direct and indirect long-term effects of the pandemic on both people and society.
All of this will cost billions, much of it already described in the pandemic response package Newsom sought as part of its budget last month. It includes $ 1.9 million that lawmakers have already approved to increase hospital staff and increase coronavirus testing and vaccine distribution, as well as existing funds and expected federal funds.
His proposed budget also includes $ 1.7 billion to strengthen state health care staff with more investment in increased laboratory testing capacity, data collection and outbreak research.
Newsom, who has been criticized for sometimes failing to follow his own rules, defended keeping some of his executive emergency orders in place, which he said most recently has allowed the state to quickly pick up temporary medical workers and quickly distribute more than 13 million. home test kits for schools.
Those orders have dropped from 561 to fewer than 100 in recent months, he said, and his administration is working with legislative leaders to ultimately make them unnecessary.