Gov. Gavin Newsom formally rescinded California’s COVID-19 state of emergency Tuesday, shifting the state’s strategy around the virus from response to preventing and assuaging future surges.
Newsom issued his initial statewide COVID emergency proclamation on March 4, 2020, which made it easier for local governments and the state to coordinate their pandemic response at a time when just a handful of cases had been confirmed statewide.
Since then, the state has confirmed 11.1 million COVID cases and more than 100,000 deaths. Nearly 73 percent of state residents have also completed their initial COVID vaccination series. State officials have cited their SMARTER plan – standing for shots, masks, awareness, readiness, testing, education and pharmaceutical treatments, abbreviated as Rx – as the state’s strategy to mitigate the virus going forward.
“The state’s SMARTER Plan will maintain California’s operational preparedness to address the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic and will continue to guide the state’s work to support communities across the state,” Newsom said Tuesday in a statement.
Newsom announced in October that the state of emergency would sunset at the end of February in an effort to give local health agencies time to respond to an anticipated spike in cases during and after the winter holidays.
While COVID cases, deaths and hospitalizations all rose statewide in late December and early January, each metric remained well below the winter surges from the prior two years that caused record-high case rates and hospitalizations.
Even with its SMARTER plan in place going forward, the state has not always met its stated goal of preventing COVID case and death disparities among different ethnic groups. As of Feb. 23, Latino residents account for 44.5 percent of all confirmed cases statewide and 42 percent of the state’s COVID deaths, but make up just 38.9 percent of the state’s population, according to date from the California Department of Public Health.
The disparities are also found in vaccination rates, as 72.6 percent of white residents have completed their initial vaccination series, but Black and Latino residents both have vaccination rates hovering around 60 percent.
CDPH officials noted Tuesday that state residents will still be able to access COVID testing, vaccination and medication without an out-of-pocket cost through at least Nov. 11, 2023, six months after the federal COVID public health emergency ends.
After Nov. 11, residents with health insurance who seek in-network testing, vaccination and treatment services will also be able to do so without out-of-pocket costs, according to the CDPH.
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