California Gov. Gavin Newsom laid out six criteria for re-opening the state’s doors for business in the wake of the coronavirus emergency.
The Democratic governor said the framework offers a glimpse at what life will look like in the aftermath of the COVID-19 emergency. Newsom had Dr. Sonia Angell, director of the California Department of Public Health, run through the key questions that must be answered first.
“To be very clear, this is not simply about a set of indicators where we check and we move on,” Angell said. “This is a thoughtful process about how we modify our policies so that ultimately we protect the health of Californians.”
Better monitoring of populations
California must be able to monitor and protect the health of communities through expanded testing, contact tracing, isolation and quarantine, Newsom said.
His health officials said the state will need to be prepared to test everyone who is symptomatic.
While it’s not necessary that everyone in California be tested, “it’s something that is essential for us to understand as we think about what kind of modifications are appropriate,” Angell said.
Angell said it also will be essential to be contain the further spread of infection as soon as it is identified in the community.
“This will be essential and important as we think about creating more opportunities for movement in the community, more opportunities for infection and unfortunately also more opportunities for potential movement of COVID-19,” she said.
Protecting those at severe risk
Newsom said his administration has made it a top priority to protect the most vulnerable populations to COVID-19.
“Primarily our seniors, those with immune order issues, and specific strategies and interventions around addressing the needs of our homeless as examples of addressing those vulnerable populations as a top priority,” Newsom said.
Angell said that California has six million older adults who are isolating at home or in congregant settings like nursing homes.
“And every one of them deserves the support they need to be able to stay safe in their own home,” she said.
Insuring surge capacity
Newsom said it is important that before California opens its doors back up for business, that its hospitals and health care facilities are prepared to handle a potential surge in demand.
“We need to make sure that that infrastructure is protected and to make sure that those assets are well-prepared,” Newsom said.
The governor said that includes providing enough personal protective equipment for frontline health care workers and “making sure that we have a myriad of other protective gear for that workforce.”
Therapeutics must meet demand
Newsom said it is critical that the state engage with academic and corporate research partners to produce better therapeutics “which are profoundly important as we bridge ultimately toward herd immunity and a vaccine within, we hope, the next year or so.”
“(Therapeutics) are important, especially in the absence of a vaccine, because they allow people if they do get sick to recover more quickly and also not to end up in our care delivery system and put more pressure on (it),” Angell said.
Angell said the state must continue to build a coalition of public and private partners and to identify potential therapeutics that show promise.
“We’re already on our path here, we’ll continue to do work here and we’ll continue to watch it as we assess changes,” she said.
Societal infrastructure must change
Newsom said that it’s time to start “re-drawing our floor plans” to make businesses, schools and public facilities safer and more resistant to the spread of diseases like COVID-19.
Angell expanded on that, explaining that the state must work with businesses to introduce physical distancing into the workplace.
“How have we shaped it so we’ve basically engineered in the opportunity to stay six feet apart? That means we can spend less time trying to avoid bumping into one another, trying to avoid potentially exposing one another to COVID-19, and more time focusing on getting our work done and going about our daily business,” she said.
We must be ready for anything
Gov. Newsom warned that even when the shelter-at-home order goes away, it may not be gone for good.
He said Californians need to be prepared for the state to shift back to emergency measures such as stay-at-home orders as necessary. He cautioned that getting back to normal was going to be a gradual process.
“There’s no light switch here. I would argue that it’s more like a dimmer,” he said.