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Newsom to announce next phase of pandemic response Thursday

Gavin Newsom
Rich Pedroncelli / AP
Pool AP
Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks about his 2021-2022 state budget proposal during a news conference in Sacramento, Calif., on Jan. 8, 2021.

California's indoor mask requirement is officially gone and Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to release his endemic plan Thursday afternoon. The governor said the plan will answer questions about where California is going with the pandemic.

"There’s uncertainty going forward and we need to be prepared," said Dr. Eric Topol from the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla.

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Topol was one of the experts Newsom's team shared the plan with ahead of this week's anticipated release.

"It’s good — but it could be even more bold and more comprehensive," Topol said.

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The plan will promote preventative measures and account for expected problems like the resurgence of a new variant, but Topol wishes it focused more on getting people vaccinated and using new technology to track spread.

"I don't think that word 'endemic' helps us at all," Topol said. "I think what we should be thinking about is do we have the virus in containment? Are there very low levels and what are we doing to keep it that way when once we get there? We’re not there yet, we’re still not anywhere close."

Transitioning to an endemic phase is also recognition that the virus is not going away.

"We certainly could see a new strain of virus that could haunt us in the month ahead," Topol said. "Let’s be careful thinking we’ve reached the end of this because this is clearly not the end."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Wednesday 97% of counties across the country have high or substantial transmission rates. Even so, planning is also happening at the federal level for the next phase.

"We’re moving toward a time when COVID-19 isn’t a crisis — but something we can protect against and treat," said Jeffrey Zients, the White House's coronavirus response coordinator. "The President and our team are actively planning for this future."

Topol notes the governor’s framework is a preparedness plan because endemic does not mean we’re moving on from COVID-19.

Newsom to announce next phase of pandemic response Thursday