Gov. Gavin Newsom of California on Sunday described the new pandemic plan he released last week as a “more sensible and sustainable” approach that would lead the state out of “crisis mode” now that Omicron cases had dropped significantly and many residents were eager to move on.
His comments on MSNBC followed an announcement from state officials last week about a “next-phase” plan, which would prioritize strategies like coronavirus vaccination and stockpiling supplies while easing away from emergency response measures like mask mandates.
“A year and a half, two years ago, we had a war metaphor and we were hoping there would be a day where there would be a ticker-tape parade à la World War II,” Governor Newsom said. “At the end of the day, though, I think we are realizing that we’re going to have to live with different variants and this disease for many, many years. And that’s what this plan does, it sets out a course to do it sustainably.”
California saw a huge spike in Omicron-related cases. Although the state has seen a dramatic decline in known infections since mid January, new cases are still at over 13,000 per day. According to the New York Times database, coronavirus has killed more than 84,000 people and infected at most 1 in 5 Californians since the pandemic.
California is one of many states that has relaxed masking requirements in recent week, with Hawaii being the last state to maintain a statewide mandate. Puerto Rico is yet to announce any changes.
But federal health officials have yet to release any new recommendations that reflect the lifting of restrictions — including mask mandates in schools — in nearly every state, and the U.S. path in the next phase remains complicated.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last week cited the need to “remain vigilant” so that infections continue their promising decline nationwide. She stated that the C.D.C. would soon be releasing new “relevant” guidelines that would suggest adjusting restrictions, including for mask-wearing, based on factors like hospital capacity, not just case counts.
Despite the rollbacks that have been made across the country, many people still feel very vulnerable and are feeling left behind by these changes. Over seven million Americans are immunocompromised. This means that they have diseases or are undergoing treatments such as chemotherapy that decrease their ability to fight the coronavirus infection or respond well to vaccines. Tens of millions are also at higher risk for serious illness or death due to other conditions.
California’s new plan emphasizes surveillance and preparedness, focusing on continuing to promote vaccines while stockpiling medical supplies, ensuring surge staffing, combating disinformation and increasing wastewater and genomic tracking to spot new variants. According to the plan, mask requirements could be adjusted based upon the severity and number of new infections.
In his remarks on MSNBC, Mr. Newsom acknowledged the fatigue felt by people because of the “whipsaw component” of changing rules and policies depending on each surge or wave. “We’re exhausted. Everyone is exhausted. And at the same time we’re also a little bit anxious. What does the future hold?” he said.
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California’s new policy was based on a two-month review of best practices across the world, Mr. Newsom said. But he stressed the need to be “humble” in the face of a virus that could continue to mutate in unexpected ways.
On Sunday, Gov. Jared Polis, from Colorado, also stressed the uncertainty of the future, even though the governor had lifted mask mandates last summer. When asked why more governors are doing this now, he cited the protection offered by booster shots which significantly reduce the risk of severe illnesses.
California and Colorado report a full vaccination rate of around 70%; approximately 92 per cent of Colorado residents over 65 are fully vaccinated as opposed to 89 in California.
“I think what’s important is we prepare for an uncertain future,” Governor Polis said. “And I think a lot of states are undertaking that. I hope the federal government is as well.”
Source: NY Times