State health officials will unveil a new COVID-19 response strategy next week; California Governor Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday, Feb. 9. 

Several countries such as the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Denmark have lifted almost all pandemic restrictions while emphasizing that we have to learn to live with the virus, so they are taking an endemic approach to the disease, and California appears to be joining the wave.

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

The World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 pandemic on March 11, 2020. As a result, California enacted a tight lockdown, essentially shutting down the state’s economy, with devastating consequences, especially for small and medium-sized businesses.  

“We’re looking back at the last two years—what worked, what didn’t, what we’ve all learned on the journey we’ve been on together,” the Democratic governor said, according to Associated Press (AP).

He added that new approaches to facemask requirements in schools would also be outlined, as health officials are discussing the issue with teachers’ unions and school officials.

Newsom stated that the new approach will emphasize flexibility, though it will still include quarantines and testing for those who do not show symptoms, among other precautions.

As expected, the governor, aligned with national Democratic policies, emphasized achieving continuity in vaccination by administering booster shots. He said that the nearly 700,000 Californians vaccinated in the last seven days do not represent the numbers they want to achieve. 

“We still have a lot of work to do to convince people that they should still get vaccinated, let alone boosted,” he added.

As AP reports, nearly 74% of Californians over age five have had all COVID vaccines, while 9% are partially vaccinated. In addition, about 55% have received booster vaccines.

Governor Newsom made the announcements after signing into law a bill restoring supplemental paid sick leave benefits. The legislation will provide up to two weeks of leave for COVID-19-related absences.

Employers will thus be required to provide up to 40 hours of paid leave to their full-time workers who have symptoms of COVID-19, who must care for an ill family member, or who have school-age children who are unable to attend school due to pandemic closures.

The new law also provides a financial assistance package for businesses forced to absorb these extra costs. 

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