California to End COVID State of Emergency


California's COVID-19 state of emergency will end on Feb. 28, 2023, nearly three years after it began, officials in Gov. Gavin Newsom's office announced today.

The announcement came as the new variants raise concerns of another deadly winter spike across the country and as test positivity rates stabilize in California after a nearly three-month decline. More than 95,000 Californians have died as a result of COVID-19, according to state data.

The state of emergency gave Newsom sweeping, often controversial powers to issue mask-wearing mandates and temporary stay-at-home orders in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. It also allowed the governor to enter into billions of dollars in no-bid emergency response contracts with testing facilities, personal protective equipment providers and temporary employment agencies. Some of those contracts were with previously unproven providers who did not deliver services.

Today, 27 provisions of the 74 executive orders issued under the state of emergency remain in effect, officials said. More than 500 provisions have already been finalized . The Newsom administration did not allow the press to name the top officials who participated in an embargoed news conference on the end of the state of emergency.

"The State of Emergency was an effective and necessary tool we used to protect our state, and we would not have gotten to this point without it," Newsom said in a statement. "With the operational readiness we have developed and the measures we will continue to employ in the future, California is ready to phase out this tool."

The length of the state of emergency has been controversial among state Republican leaders who sought to topple the governor's power during an emergency Senate meeting in March . The resolution to end the state of emergency was defeated 8-4 , with senators voting along party lines. At the time, representatives of frontline health workers, including the California Hospital Association, stated that the flexibilities allowed by the executive orders were critical to expanding capacity. It allowed health care officials to hire thousands of out-of-state workers who typically need a California license to practice, among other emergency measures.

"The State of Emergency was an effective and necessary tool that we used to protect our state, and we would not have gotten to this point without it." Gavin Newsom

In February, the administration unveiled the SMARTER plan, its $3.2 billion long-term strategy to combat COVID-19 . The strategy outlined preparedness measures such as stockpiling 75 million masks, increasing testing capacity to half a million tests per day, and investing in the healthcare workforce and local community health organizations.

The launch of the SMARTER plan has been a key component in eliminating the need for emergency supplies, officials said.

“The administration has determined that rolling back the remaining 27 provisions of the executive order will have largely minimal operational impact,” an unnamed official said.

The administration plans to seek permanent legislative changes to two temporary provisions allowed by the executive order: allowing nurses to order and administer antiviral treatments for COVID-19 such as PAXLOVID, and allowing laboratory assistants to process COVID-19 tests.


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