California Governor Gavin Newsom presented the state’s endemic plan for living with SARS-CoV-2, saying “there is no end date” to the pandemic.
With that in mind, the state introduced the S.M.A.R.T.E.R plan, an acronym that stands for Shots, Masks, Awareness, Readiness, Testing, Education and Rx.
“This plan… has come a long way from our mindset a few years ago,” Newsom said Thursday. “The issues around a smarter plan mean nothing unless you’re ready. We are representing a readiness to make sure we can adapt in real time.”
California health officials plan on simplifying the protocols surrounding COVID-19 after two years of announcing pages worth of regulations.
Secretary of California Health & Human Services, Dr. Mark Ghaly said the state has a lot of immunity now, and knowledge of how to combat the virus.
“Today’s an important day, not because it symbolizes some lifting of some important requirement,” Dr. Ghaly said. “It’s really about… the need to balance. Balance between the healthy, humble respect of a virus that has wreaked havoc on our lives, that when we think we know about it, we learned, we don’t. It shape shifts, it comes at us in a lot of different ways.”
Ghaly added that the plan is not about “moving on, but moving forward,” as it is not assured that the virus will go away.
#California has led the nation’s fight against the #COVID19 pandemic with early public health measures that saved lives. The SMARTER plan will prepare us for the next COVID-19 threat and help us respond to future public health emergencies.
Learn more at https://t.co/z5l4vy47np pic.twitter.com/x9c056MRi2
— CA Public Health (@CAPublicHealth) February 17, 2022
The state outlined the three main goals it attempted to preserve in the midst of the pandemic, which were minimizing the strain on the state’s healthcare system, keeping staff and the public safe, as well as keeping businesses open and school attendance in person.
“We are moving past the crisis phase, into a phase where we will learn to live with this virus,” Newsom said. “We will maintain a readiness posture and stay on top of the nature of change that is so self-evident with this pandemic and disease.”
The S.M.A.R.T.E.R. endemic plan’s highlights are as follows:
The state plans to continue vaccinating residents in accordance with guidance from health officials. The state has teamed with more than 800 community organizations and 200 mobile clinics in attempts to distribute vaccine doses.
“It’s not about getting to immunity — that was our old phrase — it’s about keeping up your immunity,” Ghaly said.
As of this writing, 74% of eligible Californians have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, with 55% receiving a booster shot.
Despite dropping mask mandates in most situations, the state “strongly recommends” that people wear high-quality masks in high-risk areas. The state has stockpiled 75 million masks in the event of an emergency or shortage.
This one has less to do with the general population and more to do with the state studying waste water to give “an early look into where this virus may be going in its mutation.”
The state and its genomic labs will attempt to stay ahead of possible virus mutations and “communicate clearly how people should protect themselves.”
Newsom added that the state will be launching a community-based unit focused on “mis and disinformation,” with a series of myth buster-style videos already being made available.
California is creating a statewide assessment and action unit of epidemiologists and emergency services ready to be deployed to any county that may be experiencing unusual COVID-19 activity
The state has set up a system where up to 3,000 clinical staff may be available to help healthcare facilities, within 2 to 3 weeks.
“COVID-19 is not going away and we need to be ready with the tools, resources and supplies we will need to quickly respond and keep public health and the healthcare system well prepared,” the plan reads.
The state has stockpiled 30 million over-the-counter COVID-19 tests and are working to make them more affordable.
“There’s no reason we should have these over-the-counter tests costing as much money as they have,” Newsom said.
The state plans to keep schools open in a way it deems safe, including plans to expand school-based vaccination sites by 25% as eligibility expands.
The Rx portion of the plan entails “quickly” getting patients treatments they may need, as well as continuing to research and develop new treatments.
“Rx represents an understanding that it’s not just about vaccines… it’s about the research and development that’s unique to California,” Newsom said. “Shouldn’t surprise you, a lot of the development of some of these therapeutics, some of the most well-known therapeutics happened here in the state of California.”
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