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California's endemic phase: not everyone is ready to live with the virus

California has entered a new phase in the fight against COVID-19. But not everyone is ready to ease into the new normal just yet. KPBS Health Reporter Matt Hoffman explains.

California has entered a new phase in the fight against COVID-19, but not everyone is ready to ease into the new normal just yet under the governor's endemic framework.

"I really don't see a new normal for me yet," said Kearny Mesa resident Bianca Santos.

Santos received a kidney from her cousin a few years ago and has since taken immune-compromising drugs to keep her body from rejecting the organ. It means even the flu or food poisoning can be enough to send her to the hospital. Being high-risk means she has mostly been staying at home during the pandemic.


"I don't want to regret it at the end of the day knowing that I hung out with someone who was positive," Santos said. "That’s what scares me right now."

RELATED: As California Reopens, Some Unvaccinated People Feel Left Behind

Those who are immune compromised may not get full or any protection from COVID-19 vaccinations so extra doses are being recommended.

"In fact I got my fourth shot already last weekend," Santos said. "I just assume that I don’t have any protection at all from the vaccine."

Santos isn’t sure how to feel about transitioning into the next pandemic phase, which California Gov. Gavin Newsom said moves away from a crisis mindset to living with the virus.


"The last few days I keep thinking about words like, 'The world has moved on without me or without people who are undergoing the same things as I do,'" Santos said.

Transitioning to an endemic response recognizes that the virus isn’t going away.

"Sometimes it’s a hard pill for me to swallow," Santos said. "That it just takes longer for me to get to the normal and I’m having trouble digesting when that normal is for me — if it takes like a few years longer?"

State and local officials said the pandemic response will continue with access to vaccines, testing and treatments.

"But again all of that is more in a state of endemic — a state of preparing," said San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher last week. "Just like we prepare for the flu and other respiratory viruses."

For Santos, the flu does not compare to COVID-19.

"I wouldn’t really word it that way, but then again for people who have normal immunity I guess it’s so easy for them to say that," she said.

Santos is hoping to take a new antibody treatment that should give her some immunity against infection. Right now she is continuing to stay cautious.

"There hasn’t been too much guidance for people suffering like me, except for my doctor and he says absolutely no restaurants," Santos said.

  • San Diego school leaders are facing increased resistance to mask mandates from parents leaving local teachers stuck in the middle.
  • Hearings into leadership have yielded few answers for parents after the tragic July 20 accident where 9 troops drowned off the coast of San Clemente Island. Also, not everyone is ready for California’s move into an endemic phase of covid-19.

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