Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled California’s new SMARTER plan to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday, which has an emphasis on moving forward while remaining prepared for future variants and surges.

“We are moving past the crisis phase and into a phase where we will work to live with this virus and we will maintain a readiness posture and stay on top of the nature of change that is so self-evident with this pandemic and disease,” Newsom said during a press conference Thursday afternoon. “We will change our approach as the virus changes.”

The SMARTER acronym stands for shots, masks, awareness, readiness, testing, education, and Rx, or treatment.

Newsom said this approach continues to emphasize vaccines, masking, and testing, as the state plans to maintain or increase its capability to administer vaccine and booster shots, perform testing throughout the state, and maintain a stockpile of 75 million masks.

The SMARTER plan also puts more focus on COVID-19 treatment and therapeutics, with plans to increase availability of “evolving and improving treatments,” according to Newsom. 

According to the SMARTER plan document, the education component focuses on keeping schools open for in-person instruction and expanding school-based vaccination sites by 25%.

Newsom also said that the state now has the ability to bring an additional 3,000 clinical staff members to healthcare facilities within two to three weeks of need — part of the readiness portion of the plan.

The plan and announcement comes as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations both locally and statewide have been decreasing, and the statewide indoor mask mandate was lifted this week for fully vaccinated people.

“We’ve seen an 88% decline in Omicron (variant) cases in just the last number of weeks and 48% decompression of our hospital system,” Newsom said. “Now is the time to move forward, to turn the page, maintain vigilance.”

More information on the SMARTER response plan can be found on the state’s COVID-19 website.

Latest County COVID-19 Numbers

The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department reported 111 new novel coronavirus cases and one COVID-19-related death Thursday.

The death was of an individual age 30 to 49 from Santa Maria who had underlying medical conditions. The death was not associated with a congregate care site.

According to the Community Data Dashboard, 70 COVID-19-positive individuals were hospitalized Thursday, with 13 of these patients being treated in intensive-care units throughout the county.

The dashboard also shows that 93.9% of staffed adult ICU beds in the county are in use, meaning there is an availability of only 6.1% as of Thursday. COVID-19-related cases are accountable for 20% of staffed ICU bed use. 

In the week ending Thursday, 911 COVID-19 cases have been reported by Public Health officials — a 62.3% decrease from the previous week when 2,418 cases were reported in Santa Barbara County.

Of the 111 COVID-19 cases reported in the county Thursday, 37 were in the Santa Maria Valley and 23 were in the Santa Barbara area. 

The Lompoc Valley reported 18 cases and the Goleta Valley accounted for 13 cases Thursday.

Isla Vista logged seven new COVID-19 cases and both the Santa Ynez Valley and the Montecito-Summerland-Carpinteria area reported five new cases each.

There were also three cases pending geographic location on Thursday.

The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department has reported a total of 83,363 COVID-19 cases and 639 deaths related to the virus since the pandemic began in early 2020. As of Thursday, there are 916 cases considered still infectious or active in the county.

Noozhawk staff writer Serena Guentz can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.