California shifts to new phase of Covid-19 fight as Omicron fades

People still wear their masks amid the coronavirus pandemic, in Los Angeles, California, on Feb 8, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

SAN FRANCISCO (BLOOMBERG) - California will rely on wastewater testing and the ability to quickly ramp up vaccinations to deal with future waves of the coronavirus, under a plan officials unveiled on Thursday (Feb 17).

With the Omicron variant rapidly fading in the state, Governor Gavin Newsom is trying to lay the groundwork for a return to something like normal life after two years of lockdowns and mask mandates. The plan - given the acronym SMARTER - says the state will negotiate with manufacturers to maintain a supply of tests that can be quickly deployed in case wastewater scans detect new outbreaks.

California, which lost more than 82,500 people to the virus, will also maintain a stockpile of 75 million high-quality masks for rapid distribution and wants to maintain the ability to administer 200,000 vaccine doses per day.

"As case rates decline, we must be humble," Newsom, a Democrat, said on Thursday in a tweet. "We don't know what Covid-19 may bring but we've learned a lot."

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