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Newsom Hints At COVID-19 'Endemic Plan'; Doctors Consider What Happens Next As Omicron Surge Subsides

MARTINEZ (KPIX 5) – As California's daily COVID-19 case numbers fall it's hard not to wonder what comes next, and when. Health experts and Gov. Gavin Newsom's office are having the same conversation.

"We will eventually be treating COVID like any other respiratory disease," said Dr. Jeanne Noble of UCSF. "But do we have to endure, you know, six, eight, 12 more months of a lot of restrictions that are likely to have minimal benefit?"

For anyone anxious for a mandate rollback, and soon, Noble is carrying the flag. Her name leads a petition to wind down many COVID rules in California, and make masking voluntary.

Noble argues that vaccinations have been available for a long enough period of time, and vaccination and acquired immunity levels are high enough that other safety measures are outdated.

"The very first step is just dropping the requirements," Noble says. "And then people can ease themselves back into 2019 living, as they feel comfortable."

"You have two choices," says UC Berkeley's Dr. John Swartzberg. "You can watch the data and make plans based upon what you know, or you can guess."

Swartzberg thinks restrictions consistently fell too soon with previous surges. He'd suggest some more patience.

"If, after all, we plateau at roughly 50% level of where we started from, we will be at a very high case count still," Swartzberg argues.

"In the next couple of weeks, we will be releasing that endemic plan," Gov. Gavin Newsom said earlier this week. "How we live with the virus, how we address and live with the surges."

Newsom is now using the word endemic, and talking about what's next. But timing may be the more important question, and that is something even the experts don't quite agree on.

"In terms of when do we start relaxing things, I think when we are much more confident that things are safe and our environment," Swartzberg told KPIX 5. "And hopefully that's pretty soon."

"We are going to get to that point with Covid," Noble said. "It's just a matter of when, not if."

California's current statewide indoor mask requirement is scheduled to expire on February 15th.

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