California adopts the nation's first 'endemic virus policy
SACRAMENTO (Calif.) -- California is the first state to officially adopt an "endemic" approach towards the coronavirus. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday that a plan was being developed to prevent and respond quickly to coronavirus outbreaks. This is in contrast with the mandated masking or business shutdowns.
This milestone took nearly two years to reach. It involves a range of initiatives and billions of dollars in new spending. These will help to spot spikes or variations, add health workers, stockpile test and counter false claims.
He said, "We are moving beyond the crisis phase into phase where we will live with this virus," during a press conference in Fontana (east of Los Angeles) from a state warehouse that was brimming over with pandemic supplies.
A first-term Democrat who survived a recall election last year due to criticisms of his handling of the pandemic, said that the state's almost 40 million residents would be safe. He also promised them that as the omicron surge recedes, "we're gonna keep them safe and stay on top" of the situation. An endemic disease is when the virus remains in a community, but it becomes manageable with the development of immunity. The Democratic governor stated that there would not be a definitive change in the situation. This is unlike Wednesday's lifting the state's indoor masking requirements and an announcement coming February 28 about when schoolchildren can no longer wear face covers.
There will not be an immediate lifting of the many executive emergency orders which have been helping to run the state ever since Newsom issued the first national stay-at-home order in March 2020.
"This pandemic will not have a clear end. Newsom stated that there is no end point.
On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 an epidemic. Omicron is slowly disappearing in many parts of the globe so some countries are beginning to plan for the endemic stage. However, no state has taken Newsom's step and provided a detailed plan for the future.
Republicans have often criticized Newsom's handling on the coronavirus, and they were quick to criticize his latest effort. Jessica Millan Patterson, the Chairwoman of the State GOP, called it "an extra large helping of word salad." She also reiterated her call to "follow in the footsteps of other blue states" and to end Newsom's state of emergency. Newsom's plan includes specific goals such as stockpiling 75,000,000 masks, creating the infrastructure to administer up to 200,000 vaccines and 500,000 tests per day in case of an outbreak, and adding 3000 medical personnel within three weeks to surge areas.
Newsom's administration created a shorthand acronym that embodied key elements of the new approach: SMARTER. The letters are Shots, Masks Awareness, Readiness Testing, Education, and Rx. This is a reference to better COVID-19 treatments.
Jeffrey Klausner, an Epidemiologist at the University of Southern California said that while some might argue they should have arrived sooner, he believes that "the timing is right."
Klausner stated that surveillance, testing, vaccination, and treatment change the context and that it is appropriate to shift from a pandemic response that tries to do everything, to a rational response that tries to implement things we have strong evidence to work.
To monitor for signs of a surge, the plan calls for increased monitoring of virus remnants in wastewater. While masks are not required, they will be encouraged in many situations.
Health officials will assess if a higher strain of the virus has been detected. Federal and state officials will determine within 30 days if the virus responds to current treatments, tests, and immunities.
California's health secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly stated that one of the goals was to prevent business closures and other broad mandates. He said that the state's requirement for schoolchildren to be vaccinated against the coronavirus by fall is still in force.
New education is included in the plan, including "mythbuster videos" that fight misinformation and diinformation. They also help to interpret ever-evolving precautions.
It calls for a first in-the-nation assessment of the long-term effects of the pandemic on people and communities, in coordination with the federal government.
All of this will cost billions. Much of it was already included in Newsom's budget for the pandemic response package. This includes $1.9million that lawmakers have already approved to increase hospital staffing and increase coronavirus testing, vaccine distribution, and existing and anticipated federal money.
The proposed budget includes $1.7 billion for the state's health system, including more investments in laboratory testing, data collection, and outbreak investigation.
Newsom has been criticised for not following his own rules at times. However, he defended the use of executive emergency orders that allowed him to quickly send in temporary medical personnel and quickly distribute over 13 million home testing kits to schools.
He said that the number of such orders has fallen from 561 to less than 100 in recent months and that his administration is working with legislators to make them obsolete.