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California's governor says it's time to start living with COVID-19

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Even though cases are falling, public health authorities in California are preparing for the next COVID-19 surge. They're laying out a plan to manage COVID as a permanent aspect of our lives. Jackie Fortier with member station KPCC reports.

JACKIE FORTIER, BYLINE: Surrounded by thousands of boxes of masks in a San Bernardino warehouse, California Governor Gavin Newsom outlined a plan to combat COVID, a plan that he says provides a rapid response for future surges and coronavirus variants.

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GAVIN NEWSOM: We're not walking away from this pandemic and this disease. We're not walking away from the virus because the virus continues to change and mutate, and we will change our approach as the virus changes.

FORTIER: The governor says the state intends to stockpile thousands of ventilators, 30 million over-the-counter tests and 75 million masks. Newsom was joined by top state health official Dr. Mark Ghaly.

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MARK GHALY: If we see a signal here of increased transmission in this region, we've got to flood the zone with tests, not just PPE and masks but tests as well, to be able to bring them quickly to a community to make sure we stay on top of it.

FORTIER: Ghaly didn't specify the criteria that would trigger another statewide mask mandate. Anne Rimoin, an epidemiologist at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, says the plan needs more detail.

ANNE RIMOIN: I feel like this plan is really more aspirational. I think that we're missing metrics and key information about implementation.

FORTIER: Rimoin says it's good to look ahead, but people need to know that if hospitalizations go up, a statewide mask mandate may come back.

RIMOIN: Our problem throughout this pandemic is that we've been constantly chasing behind it. We've been constantly paying the price of not having kind of preparedness that we need.

FORTIER: And she says it's vital to determine how to manage and mitigate future surges of COVID-19. For NPR News, I'm Jackie Fortier in Los Angeles.

(SOUNDBITE OF CEREAL PARTY'S "REVERSE MAZES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.