February 23, 2022
Tanu Henry | California Black Media
(CBM) – Black faith and public health leaders are hailing Gov. Newsom’s new COVID response plan.
Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled the proposal designed to be more strategic, nimble and sustainable than it is reactive. California is the first in the nation to transition the Coronavirus crisis from a pandemic to an endemic.
Newsom made the announcement three days after he lifted 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 mandates on masking, sheltering in place or shutdowns.
“This has been a remarkable two years for everyone. No one has been immune from the stress and travails, the heartache and devastation. But many of us have shared those burdens disproportionately, unequally,” said Newsom. “Those 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 set up to handle logistics during the pandemic.
Pointing out that California has one of the lowest COVID-19 death rates in the country, Newsom added that the SMARTER plan will also focus on preparing the state in the event that there is a similar crisis in the future. Ensuring that the plan is equitable and addresses the needs of Californians of all backgrounds is a priority as well, he emphasized.
“We are moving away from a crisis mindset to living with this virus,” said Newsom. “We have come to understand what was not understood at the beginning of this crisis: that there is no ending.”
“We have a more prescriptive details and strategies to continue those efforts in partnership with 800 community-based organizations, 200 mobile clinic sites, in partnership with our state-owned testing labs, in partnership with our schools and faith-based leaders,” he added.
According to the governor’s office over 70 million COVID vaccines have been administered in the state. About 80 % of Californians have received one dose and about 70% are fully vaccinated.
Pastor 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 onset of the pandemic. “We engaged in testing, bringing greater awareness as well as making sure some of the most marginalized communities had access to not only testing but more importantly vaccination,” he said.
“We are still engaged in that fight that’s relevant to the SMARTER plan,” Casey continued. “We’ve helped individuals get shots in their arms. We’ve presented some 75,000 N95 masks to our congregations and communities. We have passed out some 15,0000 COVID tests and continue to create greater 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, in hospitalizations and in deaths — and that’s really exciting,” said Abraham, speaking at a press briefing for the African American press organized by VaccinateAll58, the California Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 response program.
Although about 82,000 Californians have died from COVID-related causes and more than 8 million have been diagnosed with the disease, Abraham says he’s hopeful about entering this next phase of the state’s response.
“We are really in this transition period from pandemic to endemic, and there really is this new conversation about learning to live with COVID. That is how we are going to go about our business and how we are going to go about staying in business and staying in school, going to church – all of these things are a part our strategy to move forward.”
Abraham encouraged people to continue to be vigilant, wear masks when necessary, and 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 deaths from COVID and more than 5 % of all cases.
Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren, who is African American, welcomed the governor to her city and thanked him for leading the fight against COVID. “California has led the nation’s fight against COVID-19 with early, robust, public health measures that have helped to save countless lives,” she said. “In Fontana, we remain focused and ready to adopt to the evolving pandemic.”
Keeping incidents of COVID low in the state, will require the participation of everyone, said Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, Chair of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the 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, older adults, Latino, Black, and Pacific Islander communities, and those with more limited resources,” she said. “The equitable response is the smarter response, and I hope the plans outlined here receive sustained attention and investment.”
Andy Slavitt, former Senior Advisor for COVID-19 Response in the Biden administration, says Newsom’s post-pandemic strategy should be a model for states around the country.
“California’s SMARTER plan should represent a turning point in managing the pandemic from taking whatever the virus brings us to being prepared to manage whatever challenges come next,” he said.
Newsom said the state will also be analyzing wastewater to track the evolution 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 save lives and advance our ongoing recovery,” said Newsom. “Building on proven tools – rooted in science and data – that have been honed over the past two years, we’re keeping our guard up with a focus on continued readiness, awareness and flexibility to adapt to the evolving pandemic. As we have throughout the pandemic, the state will continue applying the lessons we’ve learned about the virus to keep California moving forward.”
Aldon Thomas Stiles contributed to this report.
Photo Credit: Governor Office
September 30, 2021
SB 16 by Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) increases transparency of peace officer misconduct records pertaining to findings of unreasonable or excessive use of force, discriminatory or prejudiced behavior, failure to intervene when witnessing excessive use of force by a peace officer, or participation in unlawful searches and arrests.
“Today is an important day. It’s an inflection point in how we provide for public safety in the State of California,” said California Attorney General Rob Bonta. “I’m proud to stand with my former colleagues and Governor Newsom to embark on a new chapter in our shared fight to infuse our criminal justice system with more trust, transparency, and accountability. By building trust today, we are ensuring officer and community safety for tomorrow. Trust generates safety and safety generates trust. It will take sustained work by all of us to get the job done, but this is a monumental step forward on the path toward justice.”
“I am proud of the important progress the Legislature and Governor have made this year to help make sure people of color in California can be safer in their dealings with law enforcement. No one should have to fear those who are sworn to protect them,” said Senate President pro Tempore Atkins. “My colleagues in both houses who worked tirelessly for these bills, and the family members, community advocates, and responsible law enforcement leaders who helped get the bills across the finish line all deserve our thanks. There is more work to do, and we are already back at it. Four hundred years of racism won’t be erased overnight—but the arc is bending and the moral momentum is on our side.”
“California has one of the most progressive criminal justice systems in the nation,” said Senator Bradford. “But for too long, problematic officers that commit heinous acts in one department are either not held accountable and continue to be a problem for that community, or are punished, but able to find employment in another department. This rinse and repeat style of accountability has led to the continuous erosion of community trust. At long last, California finally joins the 46 other states with processes for the decertification of bad officers. I’m proud to have authored this landmark bill for California, which honors Kenneth Ross Jr. and the many others who have had their lives taken by police who abuse their power. My deep appreciation goes out to the families, community organizations, advocates and legislators who were willing to stand up and support this positive change. I applaud Governor Newsom for standing with us on this issue and look forward to working with the Administration on more ways to improve public safety and rebuild public trust in our law enforcement system.”
“Trust in law enforcement erodes when police misconduct is kept secret and officers who’ve acted badly are allowed to avoid consequences,” said Senator Skinner. “SB 2 and SB 16 will help restore public trust in California policing. By signing these bills, Governor Newsom has ensured that police who commit serious misconduct will no longer have the privilege of wearing a badge and that we, the public, have the right to know when officers use excessive force or engage in racist or biased behavior.”
Governor Newsom also signed AB 26 by Assembymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) which creates guidelines for police officers to intercede and immediately report if another officer is using excessive force; AB 89 by Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) which raises the minimum age to become a police officer to 21 and will enhance education requirements; and AB 490 by Assemblymember Mike Gipson (D-Carson) which bans technique and transport methods that involve risk of positional asphyxia.
A full list of the bills signed by the Governor is below:
Governor Newsom last year signed a series of bills into law initiating critical criminal justice, juvenile justice and policing reforms in California, including banning the carotid restraint, requiring the Attorney General to conduct investigations into officer-involved shootings of unarmed individuals that result in death and legislation that reforms the juvenile justice system to put more emphasis on rehabilitation and education. The Governor last year also released recommendations from his policing advisors for improving police response to protests and demonstrations and directed the statewide Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) to modernize training and guidance for law enforcement.
For full text of the bills signed today, visit: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov
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