Politics as Usual

What to expect in our brave new world

Your questions answered about the next stage of the pandemic

With the delta variant on the wane at last, our elected leaders and public health officials are finally starting to relax the restrictions we’ve lived under for the past two years. We have pulled together the state’s brightest minds to answer your questions about what’s next.

What did the governor announce?

In February, saying the state was moving from a crisis mindset to a sentinel’s role, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a 30-page plan that he says will be a smarter plan for dealing with COVID.

How is it a smarter plan?

For one thing, it’s literally called the SMARTER Plan. It stands for Shots, Masking, Awareness, Readiness, Testing, Education, and Rx.


They’re politicians, not poets. Nor are they snarky journalists. I’d have called it the SMARTERX Plan. Or the ARMREST Plan.

What can I do now that I couldn’t do last month?

Not much, but some additional restrictions were scheduled to be revisited at the end of February, so that might have been announced by the time you read this.

Otherwise, Newsom’s plan won’t immediately affect you. It mostly includes things the state will do to be prepared to handle further flareups of this or other pandemics. For example, it will maintain statewide abilities to promote vaccination, staff up clinical personnel on short notice, perform at least 500,000 tests a day, expand school-based vaccination sites, make clinically effective therapeutics available, and stockpile 75 million masks.

How do I get one of those 75 million masks?

Wait, you’ve complained about masks, thrown tantrums on airplanes, parked your semi on a Toronto bridge, and uploaded YouTube videos comparing mask mandates to Nazi policies, and now you want a free mask? Make up your mind.

How about here in San Francisco?

Removing your mask indoors isn’t just for the governor and mayor anymore! As of Feb. 16, masks for vaccinated people are no longer necessary in most indoor settings. The unvaxxed still need to be masked.

Also, everyone — vaccinated and unvaccinated alike — still needs to wear masks on public transportation, in health care settings, congregate settings, long-term care facilities, and in a few other situations.

So now I can complain when a store manager tells me to wear a mask?

Perhaps you need better life goals.

Businesses and other site operators have the right to protect themselves and other patrons by requiring the wearing of masks on their premises. 

I just hate the way I looked in a mask.

Whatever you wore, you didn’t look as dumb as the woman who used a rubber band to attach a big piece of lettuce to her face, with eye holes cut out. True fact.

I can’t even imagine what that would look like.

It looked like Head Lettuce.

Were all the restrictions worth it?

Depends on whether you’re pro-life or not. Newsom said California — known for its readiness to impose mandates and restrict gatherings during the pandemic — “has among the lowest death rates in the United States of America — 50 percent lower death rates in California than in a state like Florida.”

There literally is no other state like Florida.


But you get his point.

How will 2022 differ from 2021 and 2020?

For the first time since the pandemic started, this year you could go to the Lunar New Year parade, and you’ll be able to attend the San Francisco Pride parade, and the, uh, Hippie Hill event for stoners.

After two years of pandemic, social upheaval, and political violence, will America come together again in peace?

A Republican in Georgia just launched her gubernatorial campaign with the slogan “Jesus, guns, babies.” 

So, no.

If they’re just easing up on all of the rules, was it all worth it?

It’s all about timing. Early in the pandemic, we needed to slow the flood of patients into hospitals, which were unprepared for a pandemic, under supplied with equipment, and unsure about how to treat people for a newly discovered disease. They didn’t even have enough surgical masks for doctors and nurses, which at least partially explains the confusing early advice on masking from our government leaders — wear them, don’t wear them, use cloth, use surgical masks, wear lettuce. (O.K., not that last one.)

But now, things are able to be loosened up because of higher levels of vaccination, better prepared hospitals, greater levels of natural immunity, and new medicines available for treatment.

Wow. Kind of makes me proud to be an American.

I know, right? Though the Pfizer vaccine was funded by the German government, not the U.S. government. Danke, Frau Merkel!

Still, the vaccines and new medicines are great examples of the triumph of science. Which is necessary to save us from everyone who doesn’t believe in science. 

Seriously, “Jesus, guns, babies”?

Yep. And I added the commas, because otherwise . . . 

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