Life in California is just not the same since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Although the disease is entering an endemic phase, new rules and standards imposed will remain in the lives of its citizens, whether or not they agree.

As California shifts the focus of COVID from a pandemic to an endemic mode, questions arise as to what mandates will remain in place.

The endemic stage of the disease is when a virus still exists in a community but becomes stable and constant as immunity develops in the population.

While Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a new plan that would emphasize flexibility a few days ago, last Thursday, Feb. 17, he talked about a long-term strategy in the face of an “evolving” pandemic. 

“We have all come to understand what was not understood at the beginning of this crisis, that there is no end date. That there is not a moment where we declare victory despite so many of the metaphors that were used during this pandemic—the war metaphors where we said, ‘We will defeat this virus,'” Newsom said, as quoted by CNN.

California’s governor was the first to implement a statewide stay-at-home order in March 2020 and has remained among the states with the tightest restrictions ever since. 

Two years later, California is implementing its endemic plan, the major components of which include vaccinations, daily testing, and masks.

On Feb. 9, during the announcement of the transition to the endemic phase, Newsom said that the nearly 700,000 Californians who were vaccinated “in the last seven days” do not represent the numbers they want to achieve.

No doubt, measures such as mass vaccination have become normalized, and with it, new requirements for those who choose, for various reasons, not to be vaccinated. 

Thus, places frequented massively by people before COVID, such as supermarkets, cinemas, theaters, gyms, etc., will have different requirements for those who are not vaccinated, demanding masks in closed places.

The lifting of the mask mandate in effect since Feb. 16 also left out schools, although with the promise to consider lifting the requirement there as well. 

The announcement on the use of masks in schools caused great discontent in the educational community. Parents question the measure, claiming that official figures show a marked decrease in the number of positive cases, in addition to the steady increase in the vaccination rate.

And last but not least, the implementation of telecommuting, which is here to stay, is among the most pronounced changes experienced by many Californians, leaving thousands of workers at home and office buildings unpopulated. 

Over the next three years, the state expects to reduce leased office space by 20%, which would save about $84.7 million per year, according to Governor Newsom’s budget proposal submitted in January.

“In addition to saving money on leases, the state’s shift to telework will reduce traffic congestion and vehicle emissions while helping the state recruit and retain workers in a rapidly changing hiring environment,” a Government Technology report indicated.

The COVID pandemic drastically marked the lives of all Californians and indeed all people around the world, and it is still hard to think of everything ever going back to the way it was. At least, for the time being.

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