California will sunset its COVID-19 pandemic state of emergency next year, state officials said Monday.
The state of emergency, which made it easier for state and local governments to coordinate their pandemic response, is set to end Feb. 28, 2023, Gov. Gavin Newsom said.
According to Newsom’s office, the decision was made in light of drastically reduced COVID-related hospitalizations and deaths in recent months and the ability to reduce the virus’ spread through means like vaccination, testing, pharmaceutical treatments and masking.
“The state of emergency was an effective and necessary tool that we utilized to protect our state, and we wouldn’t have gotten to this point without it,” Newsom said in a statement. “With the operational preparedness that we’ve built up and the measures that we’ll continue to employ moving forward, California is ready to phase out this tool.”
According to state officials, sunsetting the state of emergency at the end of February will give flexibility to health care providers in the event of another winter surge in cases while also allowing local public health agencies time to prepare.
With COVID lab testing and therapeutic treatment capacity set to change once the state of emergency ends, Newsom said he intends to work with the legislature to enact statutory changes that would allow nurses to provide COVID therapeutics and lab workers to process COVID tests on their own.
State officials also touted the SMARTER plan – standing for shots, masks, awareness, readiness, testing, education and pharmaceutical treatments, abbreviated as Rx – as the future of the state’s response to COVID surges.
Newsom and state Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly first announced the SMARTER plan in February.
“California’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has prepared us for whatever comes next,” Ghaly said. “As we move into this next phase, the infrastructure and processes we’ve invested in and built up will provide us the tools to manage any ups and downs in the future.”