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 he has a plan to prevent and quickly respond to coronavirus outbreaks. This plan will be in place of 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.
"We are moving beyond the crisis phase into a stage where we will work with this virus," he stated during a news conference in Fontana east of Los Angeles. He said that "we're going keep them safe" and "we'll stay on top of it" as the omicron surge recedes.
An endemic disease is one that has the virus in its original form but becomes less severe as the immunity increases. 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 cease wearing face covers. And there will also be no immediate lifting the scores of executive emergency orders that have been helping to run the state since Newsom issued the first national stay-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 efforts. Jessica Millan Patterson, the Chairwoman of the State GOP, called it "an extra large helping of word salad." She also reiterated her call for other blue states to follow Newsom's lead and either end the state of emergency or remove his school mask mandate.
Newsom's plan has specific goals. It includes stockpiling 75,000,000 masks, setting up infrastructure to provide upto 200,000 vaccines and 500,000 tests per day in case of an outbreak, as well as adding 3,000 medical personnel within three weeks to surge areas.
Newsom's administration created a shorthand acronym to sum up key elements of its new approach. It was called SMARTER. Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, an epidemiologist from the University of Southern California said that while some might argue that these should have been done 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 the 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.