Feb 18, 2022 - Health

California first state in U.S. to outline COVID endemic phase plan

Governor Gavin Newsom speaks at a press conference on Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022, in Oakland, Calif.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom during a press conference in Oakland earlier this month. Photo: Aric Crabb/MediaNews Group/East Bay Times via Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Thursday announced plans to tackle the "next phase" of the COVID-19 pandemic, as cases in the state decline.

Why it matters: California is the first U.S. state to formally move toward an "endemic" approach to the coronavirus, under a strategy that focuses on a swift response to outbreaks and a shift away from pandemic mandates and business disruptions, per AP.

Driving the news: The governor's office issued a statement outlining the policy, known as the "SMARTER" strategy.

  • This acronym stands for "shots," "masks," "awareness," "readiness," "testing," "education and "rx" a term Newsom's office uses to describe "evolving and improving treatments that will become increasingly available and critical as a tool to save lives."

What he's saying: Newsom said at a news conference in Los Angeles on Thursday that California was entering "a new phase of addressing the challenges and realities of this disease" in the "spirit of optimism."

  • "We are moving past the crisis phase into a phase where we will work to live with this virus," Newsom said.
  • "We move out of the pandemic phase and we move into a phase which should allow you confidence that we are not walking away, that we're taking the lessons learned and we’re leaning into the future," he said.

The big picture: Nearly two years on from the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a pandemic, as the Omicron variant dominates some countries have announced plans for the endemic phase of managing the virus, whereby it becomes manageable in a community as immunity builds, AP notes.

  • WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said last week he expected "the acute phase of this pandemic will end this year" if 70% of the world is vaccinated by the middle of 2022, per Al Jazeera.
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