SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — California unveiled a COVID-19 endemic approach, the SMARTER Plan, announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday.
The SMARTER Plan emphasizes prevention for future surges over mandated masking and business shutdowns, and it’s the first adopted “endemic” plan in the nation. The latest COVID-19 plan came a day after the state’s indoor mask mandate ended for vaccinated people, and it allows the state to hold on to its ability to require masking when necessary.
An endemic is when a disease or condition is regularly found among a community but becomes managed as immunity builds. California’s endemic plan comes nearly two years after Newsom declared a shelter in place order at the height of the pandemic in March 2020.
“This pandemic won’t have a defined end. There’s no finish line,” Newsom told the Associated Press.
As the state looks forward to a return to normal during a lingering pandemic, what is the SMARTER plan?
- S = Shots
- M = Masks
- A = Awareness
- R = Readiness
- T = Testing
- E = Education
- R = Rx
According to the state’s 30-page document, public health officials say vaccines are the most effective tool against hospitalizations and illnesses.
Increasing efforts among K-12 kids is part of the state’s efforts to keep students on campus for in-person instruction. As of now, masks are still required for kids and adults at K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. California health officials are also preparing children under age 5 to become eligible for the vaccine.
“The need to improve vaccination rates among our youngest Californians will support our broader efforts to keep in person instruction across the state,” the document reads.
Not much has changed about mask requirements in California. Even though masks aren’t required for vaccinated Californians, the state still recommends wearing them indoors.
Unvaccinated people are still required by the state to wear masks in all indoor settings.
Masks are still required in high-risk settings such as public transit, nursing homes, hospitals and homeless shelters regardless of vaccination status.
This section discusses how the state plans to remain aware and better understand the long term impact of COVID-19. Officials say they will remain vigilant of variants and how those would spread. Communication and coordination with state and local officials is also critical to any virus response, the state says.
Health officials don’t expect COVID-19 to go away soon, and if a surge occurs, the state says it needs to be ready for a quick response with tools, resources and supplies. If another surge of a new variant occurs, the state says a quick response is needed to keep the public health and health care system prepared and not overwhelmed.
The state aims to continue to prioritize testing to not only get through the omicron variant but to be prepared for future variants.
Many things highlighted in this section are the state’s key efforts in testing, expanding testing sites if needed and the procurement of additional at-home tests. The state reiterates the importance of testing and getting the right type of tests – PCR or antigen.
The state has a goal of preserving safe and in-person schooling. The document reads that universal indoor masking has been the cornerstone of the state’s strategy to keep schools open.
The state’s efforts in maintaining in-person instruction include promoting childhood vaccination efforts, focusing on indoor air quality to protect students and school staff and continuing to distribute COVID-19 tests to schools.
If resources become available, the plan allows the state to transition toward increasing the use of over-the-counter tests at schools with particular attention to equity.
This section mentions the state’s goal for treatments to become increasingly available as a critical tool to save lives. State officials say they aim to ensure medicine and medications are available and also affordable.
Having the right prescription and ordering them within 48 hours for people is also mentioned in this section.
What will the SMARTER plan look like in action?
If transmission of the virus is high, health officials will analyze it to see if it’s a new variant. If it is a new variant, state and federal officials have 30-45 days to determine its response to current tests, treatments and immunities from vaccines and prior infections.
The state plans to respond with an increase in testing and staffing in the affected area, including getting temporary medical workers to assist strained hospitals. The state aims to add 3,000 medical workers within two to three weeks in surge areas.
In its plan, the state set goals of stockpiling 75 million masks and increasing vaccinations and tests. The masks will be distributed as needed and aim to ramp up vaccinations to 200,000 and tests to 500,000 per day.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.