The plan will “guide the state’s strategic approach to managing Covid-19, with a focus on continued readiness, awareness and flexibility to adapt to the evolving pandemic,” Newsom’s office said in an advisory announcing the event.
Newsom’s plan comes as the Omicron wave that slammed the United States early this year recedes — and as other Democratic-led states move to relax restrictions. New York and Rhode Island dropped their mask mandates in recent days; Illinois, New Jersey and Oregon are set to do so in the coming weeks.
California has long been among the most strict states in imposing Covid-19 health mandates. Newsom was the first governor to implement a statewide stay-at-home order in March 2020. But he and other Democratic governors who have imposed public health measures are adjusting their approaches as Americans willing to tolerate the risks seek to return to normalcy in some ways.
In recent interviews, Newsom previewed a shift in strategy to treat Covid-19 like any other virus — including lifting the state’s mandate for masks in schools. California’s mask mandate for indoor businesses expired this week, though local governments can still impose their own mandates.
“In that endemic plan we will be able to answer many questions that many of you have about the world we are living in and where we are going with this virus and where can create criteria as we transition to the endemic phase,” Newsom said last week, previewing the announcement.
He said the plan will take into consideration what did and did not work in the last two years and how to address possible surges and new variants.
The California governor could be at odds with Democratic lawmakers who control the state’s legislature and are pushing for strict vaccination requirements. Proposals include one that would require vaccines for all students except those granted medical exemptions and allow those 12 and older to get vaccinated without their parents’ consent, and one that would require businesses to require all employees and contractors to be vaccinated.
As Democratic lawmakers consider going farther than Newsom has, Republicans have long claimed that his mandates have gone too far — using Newsom being photographed hobnobbing maskless a November 2020 dinner party at The French Laundry to make their case.
However, an attempt to recall Newsom last year, with Republican talk radio host Larry Elder emerging as the top candidate to replace him, failed in the overwhelmingly blue state. Newsom won the September recall election, with 62% of California voters saying he should not be removed from office.
California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said Monday that “California’s plan, of course, will talk about data, and data elements and their importance but will largely be focused on how we stay prepared and ready and what Californians should come to expect.”
“I think it’s really important that we not just talk about endemic phase but how do continue to live with a virus that changes and kind of throws curveballs at different times,” Ghaly said, noting the unpredictability of the virus. “So, for California and our future, it is about being ready and being prepared.”