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California Governor Gavin Newsom Announces ‘Endemic’ Approach to COVID-19

The plan does not lift the vaccine mandate for children attending school this fall

Governor of California Gavin Newsom launches a new, long-term approach to managing COVID-19.

The SMARTER plan reflects the endemic status of COVID-19 as immunity to the virus increases across the state. The acronym stands for shots, masks, awareness, readiness, testing, education, and Rx treatments, indicating the method the state will rely on going forward.

“Moving from this crisis mentality, moving from a reactive framework to a framework where we are more Sentinel our approach that we stand firm and confident as we lean into the future, moving away from a reactive mindset and a crisis mindset,” said Newsom at a Feb. 17 news conference announcing the plan.

Under the new plan, the state-wide indoor mask mandate will end on Feb. 23. 

The government will also increase its monitoring of virus remnants in water waste which could indicate a sudden surge of the virus. 

Additionally, medical staff will be sent to hospitals experiencing staffing shortages. Through continuous contracts with national registry companies, the state government wants to add 3,000 medical workers to areas with a high number of cases over the next three weeks.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s health secretary, told reporters that California’s goal is to avoid any future business closures or extensive mandates.

“The omicron surge is ebbing as quickly as it spiked in December, with new cases falling back to near pre-surge levels,” reports ABC 7 News. “Hospitalizations and intensive care cases were also falling, and the state’s forecasting models predict a continued gradual easing over the next month.”

Under the new plan, the government will stockpile pandemic supplies, including 75 million masks and ventilators.

Newsom said in his announcement that he aims to increase vaccinations and testing, setting a goal of 500,000 per day. He said he wants the state to remain prepared for a potential future outbreak and have resources readily available.

To combat “misinformation,” the government will release “myth-busting videos” and interpret for the public the array of directives and safeguards that vary across the state and change frequently.

The SMARTER Plan also calls for a study of the direct and indirect impact on individuals and communities incurred because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“One of the fundamental lessons we’ve come to understand is that the disease has evolved and our understanding has to evolve in terms of how we approach it with the kind of flexibility that is required,” Newsom said. “We have to prepare for that uncertainly, we have to communicate that uncertainty and this plan is put forth with that in mind.”

The majority of the plan will be funded through the $3.2 billion pandemic response package established in January as part of California’s budget.

The new plan does not lift the vaccine mandate for children attending school this fall.

Newsom’s office announced in October that students in grades 7 through 12 must be fully vaccinated by July 1, 2022 against a variety of illnesses, including COVID-19.

The state of emergency will stay in effect along with orders that give Newsom authority to establish COVID-19 protocols. The governor said fewer than 100 of his orders are currently in effect, down from the previous total of 561.

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