California officially ends COVID-19 state of emergency

The COVID-19 emergency state in California, the most populous state of the United States, officially ended on Tuesday, nearly three years after Governor Gavin Newsom issued the country’s first statewide stay-at-home order.

Newsom issued a proclamation on Tuesday terminating California’s COVID-19 state of emergency. Since March 2020, the statewide emergency declaration has given Newsom the power to suspend or change laws in California to fight the spread of COVID-19.

Previously, the state government has lifted most of its COVID-19 restrictions, including mask mandates, restaurant dining capacity and vaccination proof for indoor sites.

California’s COVID-19 death rate was among the lowest in the nation, according to data released by Newsom’s office.

The state has administered more than 88 million COVID-19 vaccines, with nearly 73 percent of California’s population being vaccinated, data showed.

“People who lost their life to COVID, people who lost neighbors and loved ones, we lament and are still saddened by that,” said California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly. “But to get to this point where we feel prepared to lift the state of emergency to move forward, that’s a big deal for Californians across the state.”

At this point in the pandemic, most people have some sort of immunity to COVID-19 from vaccination or infection, or both, said Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at University of California, Davis.

“The risk of severe disease is less at this point, but it’s not zero,” Blumberg said.

COVID-19 is becoming more like influenza, he added. “Most people who are not at high risk will be inconvenienced if infected, but the risk of hospitalization or death is low.”

The pandemic strained California’s health care system, which has yet to fully recover, according to Carmela Coyle, president and CEO of the California Hospital Association.

Coyle said hospitals remain overwhelmed, not from COVID patients, but from an influx of people returning to the health care system after staying away during the pandemic.

A majority of California’s hospitals are losing money, prompting fears some could close, just as a community hospital in the state’s Central Valley did in December, she said.

“While the state’s COVID public health emergency is formally concluding, the health care system emergency remains,” she said.

In January, the White House announced its plan to end the COVID-19 national emergency and public health emergency on May 11. The declarations have been extended multiple times since enacted by the Trump administration in 2020. ■

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