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How California’s Top Health Adviser Is Navigating COVID Risks

Dr. Mark Ghaly, wearing a suit, tie, and glasses with a clear frame. He's looking slightly up and to the side in front of a beige background.
California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly speaks during a press conference about Covid-19 vaccinations and housing for homeless veterans on Nov. 10, 2021 in Los Angeles.
(Patrick T. Fallon
AFP via Getty Images)
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Dr. Mark Ghaly, head of California’s massive Health and Human Services Agency, continues to wear a mask in grocery stores and will dine outside — but not indoors — at restaurants even as California, like much of the nation, has lifted its mask mandate and many other pandemic restrictions. This was among the topics explored March 4 as Kaiser Health News Senior Correspondent Samantha Young met with Ghaly for a wide-ranging 30-minute interview hosted by the Sacramento Press Club.

Young spoke with Ghaly, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s top health adviser, about the administration’s plans for moving forward as COVID-19 case rates and hospitalizations ebb. Vaccines, testing, and masking are all part of the governor’s strategy, Ghaly said, as COVID becomes endemic and Californians learn to live with the virus.

A pediatrician and father of four, Ghaly said the COVID vaccine should be required for schoolchildren, similar to other mandatory childhood vaccines. “Our schools are better off because we have these requirements” for preventing diseases, Ghaly said.

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California will allow children to be in classrooms without a mask after March 11, but Ghaly said he hasn’t yet talked with his kids about what they’ll do.

Click here to listen to the full conversation.

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This story was produced by KHN, which publishes California Healthline, an editorially independent service of the California Health Care Foundation. Subscribe to KHN's free Morning Briefing.