EDITORIAL: It’s time for California to end its COVID-19 state of emergency

This Friday will signify California’s second year in a state of emergency, set in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Golden State withstood 8.96 million positive cases and over 85,000 deaths between now and then, as the virus tested California’s medical infrastructure and technology.

After a reasonable setback in recovery plans because of the Omicron surge, California’s seven-day positive test average has improved by a margin of about 92% since the peak of Omicron. 

In light of pandemic restrictions around the state being eased out, the development of multiple FDA-approved vaccines, and immediate access to ICU beds across California, the time is right for Governor Gavin Newsom to suspend the COVID-19 state of emergency.

The governor used the California Emergency Services Act to enable a state of emergency across all of California. The provision allows him to draft legislation “with the force and effect of law” and that “take[s] effect immediately upon their issuance,” (8567, a-b).

As the state continues to make improvements in case numbers, Newsom has done everything but relinquish his immense executive powers. On Feb. 17, the governor published his “SMARTER Plan,” the next phase of California’s pandemic recovery. Newsom also terminated 19 executive orders pertaining to COVID-19 relief on Feb. 25, with just as many set to expire in the coming week.

K-12 institutions and college campuses are all back in person, and there is no longer an indoor mask mandate for those who are vaccinated — in most areas.

Individuals and institutions alike have the information and resources available to reduce their risk of exposure to COVID-19 at their own discretion. Everyone has access to masks and vaccines at this point in the pandemic.

Where is the emergency?

Since March 4, 2020, the California state legislature has had no oversight on the Governor’s Office with issues pertaining to COVID-19 because of the aforementioned clause. Due to the all-encompassing nature of a global pandemic, Newsom has enjoyed sole discretion of adjusting tax laws, creating new voting guidelines and extending the eviction moratorium over the past two years.

It is not to say that the legislation drafted by the governor’s office during the pandemic was innately harmful, but rather, that it is not a sustainable practice, nor a democratic practice, to let a single individual have total control of billions of dollars worth of state funding.

Most of the 70 provisions that the governor has drafted during the state of emergency are either expired or set to expire, but in a time when social advocacy is seemingly at an all-time high, it doesn’t seem right to have a single dominant figure call all of the shots for a state that by itself has the fifth highest GDP in the world.

California is now in a position to escape the pandemic, with the usual checks and balances in place. 

The state has come a long way since 2020. There is no longer a sense of urgency or looming mood of peril in this current stage of the pandemic, and that in itself should be grounds for the removal of the emergency proclamation.

California has 120 publicly-elected legislators sitting in Sacramento, letting Gavin Newsom draft any pandemic legislation he wants. When it was put to a vote on Feb. 10, the state legislature motioned for the state of emergency to stay in place: 31-7 in the Senate and 48-15 in the Assembly.

These representatives, elected by the people, have turned over one of the most powerful economies in the world to a single politician. This is not the California Republic.

It is time for California to regain its checks and balances, and it is time to end the state’s COVID-19 state of emergency.

 

The Coast Report Editorial Board consists of the editor in chief and section editors. One member of the editorial board writes the editorial and this rotates throughout the semester. 

Editorial topics are pitched by all members of the board and a single topic is selected for each editorial. Each editorial board member votes on their position on the selected topic and the majority position becomes that of the editorial. In the event of a tie on the first vote, editorial board members engage in continued discussion and state the reasons for their initial vote. A second vote is then taken and the majority position becomes that of the editorial. In the event of a second tied vote, the editorial position will be decided at the discretion of the editor in chief.

For this editorial, the board vote on the issue resulted in a 4-2 majority of the board voting “yes” to the question "Should the State of California end its COVID-19 state of emergency?" Coast Report publishes voting results to promote transparency.  

 

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