Smarter-Plan-QA Questions & Answers: The California SMARTER Plan

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Note: This guidance is no longer in effect and is for historical purposes only.​​

Questions & Answers: The California SMARTER Plan

​What is the SMARTER Plan?

The SMARTER Plan looks at where the state has been, draws on lessons learned, from our collective experiences, and lays out a clear path for how California will remain prepared for what COVID-19 might bring next. It also provides a summary for every Californian of how to apply key tools to mitigate individual risk and keep COVID-19 in check.

Being SMARTER is not just for COVID-19. The preparation, the flexibility and the systems we have developed make us better prepared for future infectious disease emergencies. Our state will continue to learn and adapt  our response to the virus. California has always been a state that learns and innovates – it is in our DNA and will guide us moving forward.

What are the main components of the SMARTER Plan?

California's path forward will be predicated on our individual, smarter actions, that will collectively yield better outcomes for our neighborhoods, communities, and state. Foundational to this plan: Shots, Masks, Awareness, Readiness, Testing, Education, and Rx.

  • Shots - Vaccines are the most powerful weapon against hospitalization and serious illness.
  • Masks -Properly worn masks with good filtration help slow the spread of COVID-19 or other respiratory viruses.
  • Awareness - We will continue to stay aware of how COVID-19 is spreading, evolving variants, communicate clearly how people should protect themselves, and coordinate our state and local government response.
  • Readiness – COVID-19 isn't going away and we need to be ready with the tools, resources and supplies we will need to quickly respond and keep the health care system well prepared.
  • Testing - Getting the right type of tests – PCR or antigen – to where they are needed most. Testing will help California minimize the spread of COVID-19.
  • Education - California will continue to work to keep schools open and children safely in classrooms for in-person instruction.
  • Rx - Evolving and improving treatments will become increasingly available and critical as a tool to save lives.

Why is California transitioning to the SMARTER Plan?

The SMARTER Plan is how California will navigate the next phase of the state's COVID-19 response. It is clear that the virus will remain with us for some time, if not forever. However, we have learned what works to protect our communities, and have built the necessary tools over the last two years that will allow us to target and prioritize the tool that work best to reduce the impact of future challenges from COVID-19 and other viruses

As we enter the next phase of COVID-19, we will continue to be the nation's model for preparedness through effective and timely strategies.

Does the SMARTER Plan have specific epidemiologic thresholds or triggers?

No. As we have learned throughout the pandemic, each surge and each variant brings with it unique characteristics relative to our neighborhoods and communities' specific conditions (e.g., level of immunity). Therefore, California will continue to evaluate the data quickly and nimbly to determine how to best handle future changes in the behavior of the virus. The SMARTER Plan does lay out specific response metrics that will ensure our preparedness and guide our work moving forward. Critical to this is the idea that governmental public health will remain vigilant.

The anchors of the SMARTER plan include preparing for surge staffing, therapeutics, vaccine administration, and so forth. How does the state plan to achieve these "baseline capabilities?"

California has done what it takes to save lives throughout this pandemic. We have invested where necessary to build up the infrastructure and processes needed to reduce the impact of COVID-19 has on our communities. These anchors will be the foundation of our preparedness going forward.

What is new in the plan related to K-12 schools?

California leads the nation in keeping children safely in classrooms. Our goal remains to preserve safe and in-person instruction. This means continuing to focus on a multi-layered mitigation approach, including childhood vaccination efforts, testing, outbreak investigations and improving indoor air quality in schools. We are also preparing for the eventual expiration of the universal indoor masking requirement, and we continue to take steps to improve mental and behavioral health for California's children.

How do masks fit into the SMARTER plan?

Masking as a mitigation tool has proven effective in helping minimize transmission. California has generated the data and science on the effectiveness of masks. Public health officials will continue to assess the science and the data to determine if changes need to be made to masking guidance, and requirements where necessary in high priority settings. It is recommended that Californians continue to mask when and where risk is high to protect themselves and others.

How does this plan take into consideration communities that have been more disproportionately impacted by COVID-19?

Our focus on equity and our efforts to support these communities with targeted interventions and outreach has significantly closed disparities in infection and death rates. Although more work is required to tackle disparities, our focus on equity has been fundamental to building a Healthy California for ALL. This next year will allow us to further our recovery from the pandemic, giving us the opportunity to not only build back better, but build back more equitably, fundamentally re-architecting the foundations and structures that support our health and human services programs.

How will the State continue to monitor COVID-19 and new variants?

Californians should feel confident in our state's ability to see what's coming with as much clarity and precision as possible. The state will continue public health surveillance including hospital and wastewater surveillance, whole genome sequencing, outbreak investigations, data modeling and advanced analytics to assess the disease situation in California.

Are COVID-19 treatments going to be more widely available to Californians in the near future?

We continue to work to distribute lifesaving pharmaceuticals with allocations based on equity and disease burden. This includes connecting individuals who test positive for COVID-19 with the appropriate providers to assess treatment as an option and leveraging technology like telehealth to help save more lives.