By MADISON HIRNEISEN
THE CENTER SQUARE
(The Center Square) – Gov. Gavin Newsom says the state will be lifting a series of emergency orders on Friday as California moves into the “next phase” of the pandemic – but the state of emergency remains in effect.
Gov. Newsom announced that the state would lift all but 5% of COVID-19 executive order provisions, leaving some executive actions in place related to testing, vaccination and protecting the state’s hospital capacity.
Under the new order signed Friday, 19 existing provisions were terminated immediately, another 18 will be lifted on March 31, and 15 will expire on June 30. Prior to Friday’s announcement, only 15% of COVID-19 executive actions remained in place, according to the governor’s office.
“California’s early and decisive measures to combat COVID-19 have saved countless lives throughout the pandemic, and as the recent Omicron surge made clear, we must remain prepared to quickly and effectively respond to changing conditions in real time,” said Gov. Newsom. “As we move the state’s recovery forward, we’ll continue to focus on scaling back provisions while maintaining essential testing, vaccination and health care system supports that ensure California has the needed tools and flexibility to strategically adapt our response for what lies ahead.”
Of the executive actions that remain in place, four provide “flexibility” to support the state’s testing program, two bolster the state’s vaccination and booster programs and 11 help protect capacity in the state’s health care delivery system, according to the governor’s office.
“Hospital capacity is still stretched beyond normal as people who delayed needed care are now being seen and 20 percent of health care workers have left the field,” Carmela Coyle, President & CEO of the California Hospital Association, said in a statement. “Today’s extension of certain key, temporary flexibilities means that hospitals can continue to use things like tents to receive and triage patients and retain out-of-state health care personnel to maximize care capacity throughout the state.”
Additionally, 13 provisions remain in place related to workplace safety guidelines and the ability for local agencies to provide emergency response while the state of emergency remains in place.
The decision to lift certain emergency orders comes about a week after Gov. Newsom unveiled the state’s SMARTER Plan, which outlines the long-term plan for California’s COVID-19 response. The plan sets goals, like stockpiling 75 million masks and procuring 30 million at-home tests, while doing away with more rigid frameworks the state once adopted.
California’s state of emergency remains in effect, which has drawn criticism from Republican legislators in recent weeks who have called for the Legislature to terminate the governor’s emergency powers. Having the state of emergency allows Newsom to enact orders related to the COVID-19 response and the power to bypass legislative oversight in ways he typically couldn’t.
Last week, Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins announced that the Governmental Organization Committee will hold a hearing to discuss Senate Concurrent Resolution 5, which would end the state of emergency declared in 2020, on March 15.