Governor Gavin Newsom of California on Sunday described the new pandemic plan he released last week as a “more sensible and sustainable” approach that would get the state out of “crisis mode” now that Omicron cases have dropped significantly. and which many locals were eager to pass.
His comments on MSNBC followed an announcement by state officials last week of a “next phase” plan, which would prioritize strategies such as coronavirus vaccinations and stockpiling supplies while s away from emergency response measures such as mask mandates.
“A year and a half, two years ago, we had a metaphor for war and we were hoping that there would be a day when there was a parade of World War II tickers,” Governor Newsom said. “Ultimately, though, I think we realize 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 a course to do it in a sustainable way.
The Omicron variant sparked a huge wave in California. Although the state has seen a steep decline in known infections since mid-January, new cases are still hovering at more than 13,000 a day. Overall, throughout the pandemic, the coronavirus has infected at least 1 in 5 Californians and killed more than 84,000, according to a New York Times database.
About this data
Sources: National and local health agencies (cases, deaths); US Department of Health and Human Services (hospitalizations).
California is among several states to have relaxed masking requirements in recent weeks, with Hawaii being the latest state to retain a statewide mandate. Puerto Rico has yet to announce the upcoming changes.
But federal health officials have yet to issue new recommendations reflecting the lifting of restrictions — including mask mandates in schools — in nearly every state, and the US path into the next phase remains complicated.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last week cited the need to “stay vigilant” so that infections continue their promising decline nationwide. She said the CDC would soon release “relevant” new guidance that would suggest adjusting restrictions, including for mask-wearing, based on factors such as hospital capacity, not just case numbers.
Despite setbacks across the country, many people remain extremely vulnerable and feel left behind by the changes. More than seven million adults in the United States are considered immunocompromised, meaning they have illnesses or receive treatments like chemotherapy that reduce their ability to fight off coronavirus infections or respond well to vaccines. And tens of millions of people suffer from other conditions that put them at increased risk of serious illness or death.
California’s new plan emphasizes surveillance and preparedness, focusing on continuing to promote vaccines while stockpiling medical supplies, ensuring staff surges, countering misinformation and increasing sewage and genomic tracking to spot new variants. Under the plan, mask requirements would be subject to change depending on the severity and volume of new infections.
In his remarks to MSNBC, Mr Newsom acknowledged the fatigue people are feeling due to the “circular saw component” of changing rules and policies with each surge or wave. “We are exhausted. Everyone is exhausted. And at the same time, we are also a bit anxious. What does the future hold?” he said.
California’s new policy was based on a two-month review of best practices around the world, 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 CNN on Sunday, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis also highlighted the uncertainty of what might be around the corner, even though he lifted mask mandates and other restrictions last summer. When asked why more governors are doing it now, he pointed to the protection now offered by booster shots, which significantly reduce the risk of serious illness.
California and Colorado reported a full vaccination rate of about 70%; about 92% of Colorado residents age 65 and older are fully immunized, compared to 89% in California.
“I think what’s important is that 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 too.