Gov. Newsom outlines game plan on omicron

As COVID roars back in California with the omicron variant, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday announced moves on three fronts to stem the winter surge.

First, to make sure hospitals can handle any increase in COVID patients, he detailed a new vaccine mandate — boosters for an estimated 2 million healthcare workers and nursing home staff, with a Feb. 1 deadline. Until then, those nurses and others who haven’t received the additional dose will be tested twice a week.

Second, to keep schools open, Newsom said 6 million free in-home rapid tests will be sent to California schools and partner groups, enough so that all K-12 students can be checked once or twice before returning to the classroom after the holidays. In an unusual joint statement Wednesday, teachers’ unions, parents’ groups, administrators and school boards reaffirmed their commitment to in-person learning through the pandemic.

And third, to prevent long lines seen in New York City and elsewhere, hours will be extended at some state-run testing sites among the 6,300 locations across the state.

Gov. Newsom: “We’re all exhausted by this. But we have something we never had in the past, and that’s the power of these life-saving vaccines and the power to boost it to get through this arguably fifth wave of this pandemic.”

The governor said the steps are necessary because while California is faring better than most other states, omicron is a growing threat, now making up more than half of all COVID cases in California. An outbreak of 16 omicron cases was traced to one workplace holiday party in Davis.

Overall, the number of daily new cases has doubled from 5,400 last week to about 11,000 this week, and the test positivity rate has jumped from 2.3% to 3.3%.

“We can’t take anything for granted,” Newsom said at the Native American Health Center in Oakland. “I think it’s a smart move.”

California is joining New Mexico in requiring health workers to get boosters. In August, during the peak of the delta variant surge, California became the first state to require vaccinations for healthcare workers.

At the time, state health officials said COVID-19 outbreaks in healthcare facilities can often be traced to unvaccinated employees, though health workers were first in line to get vaccines. In total, about 70% of all Californians are fully vaccinated, and nearly one-fourth (nearly 8.9 million people) have also received boosters.

COVID-related hospitalizations are rising in California, to about 4,000, including nearly 1,000 in intensive care. Those numbers are far lower than during the delta surge earlier this year, and even lower than before vaccines became available. And a new pill could help prevent hospitalizations: Wednesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the first antiviral to treat COVID at home.

At the same time, however, hospitals could still get overwhelmed, in part because the chronic staffing shortage among nurses and other healthcare workers has worsened during the pandemic.

Newsom acknowledged that the “burnout rate is off the charts” and that it “takes a toll” on healthcare workers to see COVID patients die without loved ones at their side.

But he urged the “front-line heroes” to continue to “lead by example.”

The coronavirus bottom line: As of Tuesday, California had 4,954,130 confirmed cases (+ 0.2% from previous day) and 75,281 deaths (+ 0.15% from previous day), according to state data. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.

California has administered 63,219,988 vaccine doses, and 70.4% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.


© 2022 KFMF-FM. Internet Development by Frankly Media.