Gov. Newsom announces next phase in pandemic response

In a press conference today, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a “more sensible and sustainable health care approach based on lessons learned to prepare for the unknown.”

The SMARTER Plan addresses:

Shots – Vaccines are the most powerful weapon against hospitalization and serious illness

Masks – Properly worn masks with good filtration help slow the spread of COVID-19

Awareness – Continuing to stay aware of how COVID is spreading, evolving variants, clear communication, and coordination of state and local government response

Readiness – Being prepared with the tools, resources and supplies needed to quickly respond and keep public health and the health care system well prepared

Testing – Getting the right type of tests, PCR or antigen, where they are needed most

Education – California will continue to work to keep schools open and children safely in classrooms

Rx – Evolving and improving treatments will become increasingly available and critical

Gov. Newsom did not address the school masking mandate in the main portion of the press conference, but in response to a reporter’s question, clarified at several points that a date when the masking mandate will eventually be lifted will be announced on Feb. 28 – but the mandate itself will not be lifted on that date.

“We continue to consult with parents, most importantly, and I can assure you this: there are parents that have strong opinions … on both sides of the issue,” Gov. Newsom said. “We have to accommodate for a state that has more schools and public school educators than any other state in the nation, and the nuances and complexities that that provides — those challenges — all have to be incorporated. And that’s why we feel very confident that on the 28th, not only will we announce a date, but the date will be well within a period of time that will do justice to the needs, to keep people confident that their children are being prioritized and are healthy and safe, and at the same time, accommodate the understanding that we’re trying to promote today — that we are moving into a new phase of this pandemic.”

In addition to reviewing the mitigation measures in place currently in schools, the SMARTER Plan will “expand by 25 percent school-based vaccination sites supported by state to increase vaccination rates as eligibility expands and vaccination requirements are enacted.”

The plan also briefly addresses the eventual lifting of the mask mandate: “Prepare for the eventual change to universal school masking in schools, which include ensuring equitable access to vaccination, testing, and individual protections for students, families, and school staff. Universal indoor masking has been the cornerstone of the state and national strategy to keep schools open. The goal of such efforts remains to preserve the sanctity and safety of in-person schooling.”