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By Tanu Henry, California Black Media

Black faith and public health leaders hail Governor Gavin Newsom’s new COVID response plan.

Last week, Governor Gavin Newsom unveiled the proposal designed to be more strategic, agile and sustainable than reactive. California is the first in the country to take the coronavirus crisis from pandemic to endemic.

Newsom made the announcement three days after lifting the statewide indoor mask mandate.

Dubbed the SMARTER Plan, an acronym that stands for Shots, Masks, Awareness, Readiness, Testing and Rx, the state’s new COVID response plan will focus on precautionary measures and interventions rather than broad masking mandates, shelter-in-place or closures.

“These two years have been remarkable for everyone. No one has been immune to stress and toil, heartache and devastation. But many of us shared those burdens disproportionately, unequally,” Newsom said. “These issues are all part and parcel of the consciousness that brings us to this moment.

The governor was speaking at a warehouse in Fontana that the state has set up to handle logistics during the pandemic.

Noting that California has one of the lowest COVID-19 death rates in the nation, Newsom added that the SMARTER plan will also focus on preparing the state for a similar crisis in the future. Ensuring the plan is fair and meets the needs of Californians of all backgrounds is also a priority, he stressed.

“We are moving away from a crisis mindset to living with this virus,” Newsom said. “We understood what was not understood at the beginning of this crisis: that there is no end.

“We have more prescriptive details and strategies to continue these efforts in partnership with 800 community organizations, 200 mobile clinic sites, in partnership with our state-owned testing labs, in partnership with our schools and faith leaders.” , did he declare. added.

According to the governor’s office, more than 70 million COVID vaccines have been administered in the state. About 80% of Californians have received a dose and about 70% are fully vaccinated.

Sam Casey, executive director of Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement (COPE) and pastor of New Life Christian Church in Fontana, says he has been involved in the fight against COVID since the pandemic began.

“We are committed to testing, raising awareness and ensuring that some of the most marginalized communities have access not only to testing, but more importantly to vaccination,” he said.

“We are still engaged in this fight which is relevant to the SMARTER plan,” Casey continued. “We have helped people get vaccinated in the arms. We have presented some 75,000 N95 masks to our congregations and communities. We have distributed some 15,000 COVID tests and continue to raise awareness in our communities. »

Dr. Jerry Abraham, director of Kedran Vaccines in South Los Angeles, runs a health center that provides COVID-19 inoculation to people in neighborhoods that have been historically underserved.

“We continue to see a continued decline in infection rates, hospitalizations and deaths – and that’s really exciting,” Abraham said, at a press briefing for African Americans hosted by VaccinateAll58the California Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 Response Program.

Although about 82,000 Californians have died of COVID-related causes and more than 8 million have been diagnosed with the disease, Abraham says he is hopeful of entering this next phase of the state’s response.

“We’re really in this transition period from pandemic to endemic, and there’s really this new conversation about learning to live with COVID. This is how we are going to conduct our business and how we are going to continue to work, stay in school, go to church – all of these things are part of our strategy moving forward.

Abraham encouraged people to continue to be vigilant, to wear masks when necessary, and to take steps to protect themselves and the people they love.

Black Californians, who make up about 6% of the state’s population, currently account for about 7% of confirmed COVID deaths and more than 5% of all cases.

Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren, who is African American, welcomed the governor to his town and thanked him for leading the fight against COVID.

“California has led the national fight against COVID-19 with early and robust public health measures that have helped save countless lives,” she said. “At Fontana, we remain focused and ready to adapt to the evolution of the pandemic.”

Keeping COVID incidents low in the state will require everyone’s participation, said Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, chair of epidemiology and biostatistics at UC San Francisco.

“California’s success in this next phase of the pandemic depends on our focus on those who have borne the brunt throughout: essential workers, seniors, Latino, Black and Pacific Islander communities and those whose resources are more limited,” she said. “The equitable response is the smarter response, and I hope the plans outlined here will receive sustained attention and investment,” Bibbens-Domingo said.

Andy Slavitt, former senior adviser for COVID-19 response in the Biden administration, said Newsom’s post-pandemic strategy should be a model for states across the country.

“California’s SMARTER plan should represent a turning point in managing the pandemic, moving from whatever the virus takes us to being ready to handle all the challenges ahead,” he said.

Newsom said the state will also test sewage to track the progress of the virus.

“As we enter the next phase of the pandemic, the state is better equipped than ever to protect Californians from COVID-19 with smart strategies that are saving lives and advancing our ongoing recovery,” Newsom said.

“Building on proven tools – rooted in science and data – that have been honed over the past two years, we remain vigilant with a focus on ongoing preparation, awareness and flexibility to adapt to the evolution of the pandemic. As we have done throughout the pandemic, the state will continue to apply the lessons we have learned about the virus to move California forward. »

Aldon Thomas Stiles contributed to this report.

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