Newsom said the approach – which includes tackling false claims and other misinformation – means maintaining a wary vigilance for warning signs of the next deadly new wave or variant.
“This disease is not going away,” he told The Associated Press ahead of his official announcement. “It’s not the end of quotes, quotes, war.”
A disease reaches the endemic stage when the virus still exists in a community but becomes manageable as immunity develops. But there won’t be a definitive turn for change, the Democratic governor said, unlike the case of the state’s lifting of indoor masking requirements on Wednesday or an upcoming Feb. 28 announcement of the date. of the end of the school mask mandate.
And there will be no immediate lifting of the dozens of remaining executive emergency orders that have helped run the state since Newsom imposed the first statewide stay-at-home order in March. 2020.
“This pandemic will have no definite end. There is no finish line,” he told the AP. With that in mind, he said his administration had tried to come up with “a plan that allows us to be prepared without being paranoid and more attentive to what’s going on around us without being anxious.”
The World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic on March 11, 2020, and with the disappearance of omicron in many parts of the world, some countries have begun planning for the endemic stage.
Newsom’s administration has come up with an abbreviated acronym to sum up the key elements of its new approach: SMARTER. The letters stand for Shots, Masks, Awareness, Readiness, Testing, Education and Rx, a common abbreviation for prescriptions and a reference to improving treatments for COVID-19.
Living with COVID-19 under Newsom’s plan means stepping up state surveillance, including increased surveillance for virus remnants in sewage to watch for early signs of an outbreak. Masks will not be mandatory but will be encouraged in many settings.
If a higher level of the virus is detected, health officials will analyze its genotype to determine if it is a new variant. If so, state and federal authorities aim to determine within 30 days whether he responds to existing tests, treatments and immunities from vaccines or previous infections.
Testing and staff in the affected area will be increased, including temporary medical workers to help overburdened hospitals.
The plan sets specific targets, such as stockpiling 75 million masks, ramping up 200,000 vaccinations and 500,000 tests per day, and adding 3,000 medical workers in three weeks to peak areas thanks to to current contracts with national registry companies.
Dr George Rutherford, an epidemiologist and infectious disease control expert at the University of California, San Francisco, called for a cautious approach to lifting the mandates. He’s seen drafts of Newsom’s plan and likes it.
“They have a long-term plan that tries to capture these events as they happen and have the supply chain elements you need so we can move forward thoughtfully but quickly to control new outbreaks,” he said. . “We will be able to apply them quickly and in a targeted manner, which will disrupt work execution as little as possible. »
California Health Secretary Dr Mark Ghaly said one of the goals was to avoid business closings and other high-profile mandates. However, he said the state’s requirement that school children be vaccinated against the coronavirus by the fall remains in effect.
The plan calls for a continued focus on efforts in vulnerable and underserved populations that have experienced disproportionately high death rates. And it includes new education, including “mythbuster videos” to combat misinformation and misinformation and help interpret ever-changing precautions for a confused public lashed by safeguards that seem to change day by day and vary. by county.
It builds on continued testing sites, including in schools, more over-the-counter virus testing, building and tracking strategic stocks of test kits, surgical and K95 masks, gowns and gloves hospital, ventilators to breathe for the most seriously ill. In coordination with the federal government, he calls for a first national study of the direct and indirect impacts of the pandemic in the long term on people and communities.
“One of the fundamental lessons we’ve come to understand is that disease has evolved and our understanding has to evolve in terms of how we approach it with the kind of flexibility that’s needed,” Newsom said. “We have to prepare for this uncertainty, we have to communicate this uncertainty and this plan is presented with that in mind.”
Newsom and Ghaly said the same constant monitoring would be helpful in detecting other similar respiratory illnesses, while leading to improvements in California’s overall public health system.
All of this will cost billions, much of which is already outlined in the $3.2 billion pandemic response package Newsom requested as part of his budget last month. That includes $1.9 million that lawmakers have already approved to increase staffing at hospitals and increase coronavirus testing and vaccine distribution, as well as existing money and planned federal funds.
His proposed budget also includes $1.7 billion to bolster the state’s health care workforce, with more investments in increasing lab testing capacity, data collection and outbreak investigation. .
Newsom defended keeping some of his executive emergency orders in place, which he says recently allowed the state to quickly bring in temporary medical workers and quickly distribute more than 13 million test kits to home to schools.
Those ordinances have dropped from 561 to less than 100 in recent months, he said, and his administration is working with legislative leaders to eventually make them unnecessary. Republicans in both legislative chambers have been lobbying Democratic majorities for weeks to lift the state of emergency in California.
The omicron surge is declining as rapidly as it peaked in December, with new cases falling back to levels close to those before the surge. Hospitalizations and intensive care cases have also declined, and state forecast models predict continued gradual easing over the next month.
“That’s exactly what people are going to be asking themselves in the next few weeks: Are we in a new phase? How to live with this disease without living in fear? Newsom said.
He expects other states and the federal government to follow California soon because “I think the public will demand this.”