California Gov. Gavin Newsom released the six indicators the state is considering when exploring the idea of rolling back state shelter-in-place orders and other responses to the coronavirus at a press conference Tuesday.
According to Newsom, the millions of Californians who have obeyed the stay-at-home order have successfully “bent the curve” and changed the model predictions to be less severe. He also recognized that complying with a stay-at-home order would not be feasible for everyone forever and would have lasting financial impacts, especially for low-income communities. Newsom added that, because of the improvements in projections, he made the criteria used in state officials’ private conversations on determining policy public.
“We are not out of the woods yet,” Newsom said at a press conference. “We moved not just quickly, but we moved thoughtfully as a state. When we begin to transition out of this, it’s important we take that same spirit.”
According to Newsom, the state’s ability to administer widespread testing and support those who have lab-confirmed cases of the disease or are exposed is the first and “most important” factor the state is considering when determining future policy.
Other indicators include the prevention of infection in those most at-risk, which includes the elderly, the immunocompromised and the homeless populations. Hospitals and health care institutions’ ability to handle surges, and partnerships with research laboratories and higher education institutions, such as the UC system, to develop “therapeutics” are other factors.
Newsom added that the state is considering how to facilitate “updating floor plans” in businesses, schools and child care facilities to encourage social distancing. For schools, Newsom said superintendents are discussing staggering start times, meal times and recesses for students to prevent contact and group gatherings.
“There’s no light switch here,” Newsom said at the press conference. “I would argue it’s more like a dimmer, … a toggling back and forth between more intensive and less intensive measures.”
The final indicator for the state is the ability to reverse its decision and go back to more intensive stay-at-home orders if necessary.
Newsom said the goal of any changes, which would only be made if the six conditions are met or at adequate levels, would be to move policies from a “population approach” to a more “individual approach,” to allow for more normalcy.
“This is not a permanent state, and there is some light at the end of the tunnel,” Newsom said during the press conference. “I certainly am feeling more optimistic because of all of you — the incredible spirit of people coming together, again, across every conceivable difference.”
Newsom added, however, that normalcy will not return until herd immunity and a vaccine are developed, hopefully in a year’s time.
According to Newsom, this plan is dependent on local governments and will be implemented with the support and collaboration of county health officials.
“Localism is determinism,” Newsom said at the press conference. “We have a state vision, but it will be realized at the local level.”
Newsom said, however, that if people begin to disobey the shelter-in-place orders and return to normal operations, the potential to roll back the physical distancing protocols and the “transition from surge to suppression” will be infeasible and that people must continue to stay inside, except for essential activities.
The timeline for making changes to COVID-19 response policies is uncertain, according to Newsom. He added that he will have more information in early May that will be able to help the state make a more informed decision.
“This can’t be a permanent stain, and I want you to know it’s not. It will not be a permanent stain,” Newsom said at the conference. “Never forget, you’re not alone.”
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