Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Friday that he would be removing most of the remaining COVID-19 Executive Order provisions, while keeping 30 executive actions in place as well as the COVID-19 state of emergency.
Before Friday, a total of 15% of COVID-19 executive actions were still in place since being instituted in the two years prior since the COVID-19 pandemic began. By June 30th, only 5% will be left. The new orders, effective immediately, removed 19 executive actions on Friday, with 18 to be left to expire on March 31st and another 15 to go on June 30th.
The startup of the SMARTER COVID-19 plan, plummeting COVID-19 rates statewide, and increased public backlash against existing COVID-19 health measures prompted Newsom to greatly rollback on his Executive Order and executive actions on Friday. In a speech he noted that many prior pandemic provisions could now be easily served through a much less stringent endemic plan while also noting the need for continued vaccinations and testing.
“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 Newsom in a statement. “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.”
Despite the large number of planned rollbacks, Newsom will keep 30 Executive actions in place for now, as well as keeping the COVID-19 state of emergency in place despite numerous calls for it to be removed. Specifically, the executive actions being kept are aimed at healthcare, such as keeping up COVID-19 testing and vaccination programs well into 2022.
4 of the remaining provisions are aimed at supporting the states COVID-19 testing program, with 2 orders that allow for continued vaccine distribution. Hospital protections, such as for capacity limits, during COVID-19 surges, and for vulnerable populations, have 11 protections left in. Finally, 13 of the remaining provisions state and local agency emergency responses while the state of emergency is still in effect. Some of the provisions kept in place, such as the two vaccine and booster actions, have been left specifically to help the SMARTER plan to distribute up to 200,000 vaccines and boosters per day.
Rollback on Governor Newsom’s EO provisions
While commentators noted that most Californians were happy with the rollbacks on Friday, many continued to be split between how much Executive Order power Newsom should still have. Many medical professionals gave support for keeping some provisions in place due to the threat of another deadly COVID-19 surge in the near future.
“California’s health care delivery system remains deeply strained because of the pandemic,” explained Carmela Coyle, President and CEO of the California Hospital Association, in a statement on Friday. “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. Today’s extension of a 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.”
However, others, such as business owners, pushed for Newsom to relinquish all outstanding orders, as well as end the state of emergency due to the economic harm they have caused and is now being compounded by economic effects from the Russian-Ukrainian War.
“We want them all gone,” said John Wright, a leader of an area business group in Modesto, to the Globe on Friday. “It will be two years come in a few weeks and we do not want to continue being squeezed like this. It may not seem like they do because they are all based around health and emergency things, but keeping up vaccination restrictions as a result of these staying in place, having to keep up with testing and all that. It’s still very restrictive for us and still limits the customer base. And that’s not even getting into what the state of emergency is doing.
“And also, for many of us, we simply want the Governor to go back power-wise to where he was pre-pandemic. We have separation of powers and power restrictions for a reason.”
As of Friday. there is no end date for the remaining Executive Order provisions and the COVID-19 state of emergency.