The state of emergency gave Newsom sweeping powers to issue warrants and enter into billions of dollars in emergency response contracts.
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California’s COVID-19 state of emergency will end on February 28, 2023, nearly three years after it was initiated, officials from Governor Gavin Newsom’s office announced today.
The announcement came as new variants spark concerns of another deadly winter surge across the country and as test positivity rates plateau in California after nearly three months of decline. More than 95,000 Californians have died from COVID-19, according to state data.
The state of emergency gave Newsom sweeping, often controversial, powers to issue masking and vaccination warrants and temporary stay-at-home orders in a bid to slow the spread of the virus. It also allowed the governor to secure nearly $12 billion in untendered emergency response contracts with testing facilities, personal protective equipment suppliers and security agencies. temporary work. Some of these contracts were with untested vendors who did not provide services.
Today, 27 provisions of the 74 decrees issued under the state of emergency remain in force, officials said. More than 500 provisions have already finished. The Newsom administration did not allow the press to name senior officials who attended an embargoed press conference on ending the state of emergency.
“The state of emergency was an effective and necessary tool that we used to protect our state, and we wouldn’t have gotten to this point without it,” Newsom said in a statement. “With the operational readiness we have in place and the measures we will continue to use in the future, California is ready to phase out this tool.”
Newsom has extended the state of emergency five times during the pandemic, most recently in June.
The federal government recently extended its own Public health emergency COVID-19 until January 11. Federal officials have said they will give states 60 days notice before the federal emergency order is lifted. Some pandemic-era extensions and protections Californians have enjoyed come from the federal order — like telehealth service extensions and the Medi-Cal renewal freeze, which has helped keep thousands of people insured throughout the throughout the pandemic.
The length of the state of emergency has been controversial among Republican leaders in the state who tried to overthrow the governor’s power at an emergency Senate meeting in March. The resolution to end the state of emergency was voted against 8-4senators voting along party lines.
At the time, representatives of frontline health workers, including the California Hospital Association, said the flexibilities allowed under the executive orders were key to expanding capacity. It has allowed health officials to hire thousands of out-of-state workers who generally must be licensed in California to practice, among other emergency measures.
The state’s early adoption of stay-at-home orders, which lasted intermittently for 10 months, succeeded in delaying peaks in case and hospitalization rates, but the first winter surge in January 2021 saw more than 21,000 hospitalizations at its peak. Since then, hospitals across the state have repeatedly warned of impending collapse as various waves of the pandemic intensified burnout and worker shortages.
California is currently reporting a 14-day average of 1,854 COVID hospitalizations, two and a half times fewer hospitalizations than the same time last year during the end of the delta variant surge.
In February, the administration unveiled the SMARTER plan, its $3.2 billion long-term strategy to fight 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 health workers and community health organizations. local. Rolling out the SMARTER plan has been key to eliminating the need for contingency arrangements, officials said.
“The administration has determined that reversing the remaining 27 provisions of the executive order will have largely minimal operational impact,” an unnamed official said.
The duration of the state of emergency during the winter months is “no accident”, officials said, stressing that it will provide flexibility in the event of a winter surge. However, hospital association president Carmela Coyle said her organization was “deeply concerned” by the announcement and was not consulted on when the state of emergency would end.
“This is forcing California hospitals to reduce their ability to care for people at a time of great uncertainty about the future,” Coyle said. “We find ourselves in the month of October as we approach the winter months, which are usually difficult as we see more people needing care for things like the flu, in addition to the pandemic. It’s really a bad time to think about reducing the capacity we have.
Flu season usually lasts until May.
In addition to eliminating workforce flexibility, ending the order will also eliminate hospital “space waivers,” which allow hospitals to create temporary extra beds, Coyle said.
Officials stressed that the state has four months to prepare for the end of the order and any potential changes.
The administration plans to pursue permanent law changes for two temporary provisions authorized by executive order: allowing nurses to order and administer COVID-19 antiviral treatments like PAXLOVID and allowing lab assistants to process COVID-19 tests. .
In recent months, as the ‘crisis’ phase of the pandemic waned, lawmakers abandoned attempts to make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for school children and to allow teenagers to be vaccinated without parental consent. . Vaccine and testing requirements for some workers like teachers have also been lifted. A high percentage – 72% – of eligible Californians have been vaccinated against COVID-19, according to state data.
Senate Republican Leader Scott Wilk of Santa Clarita was outspoken in his criticism of Newsom’s unfettered ability to issue untendered contracts during the state of emergency, calling it a rule “of a only man”. In response to the automatic renewal of the state’s controversial $1.7 billion COVID-19 testing contract with Perkin Elmer, Wilk wrote a measure requiring untendered contracts over $75 million to undergo legislative review before renewal.