California Governor Newsom Ends Use of COVID Emergency Powers

Gov. Gavin Newsom ended his use of COVID emergency powers Feb. 28, three years after the virus first appeared in California.

The milestone ended 1,090 days of operating under special powers that allowed Newsom to make unilateral decisions about the state’s response to the pandemic.

“Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been guided by the science and data—moving quickly and strategically to save lives,” Newsom said in a press release. “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.”

Rep. Kevin Kiley (R-Calif.) told The Epoch Times the separation of powers must be restored following the end of the emergency.

“From years of learning loss from students kept out of classrooms and countless businesses and jobs destroyed, to a loss of our basic freedoms, rarely in our history has a single person caused so much harm to so many,” Kiley said in an email. “We must finally begin to restore the separation of powers that is central to our constitutional form of government.”

Some policy experts thought the powers should have ended long before today.

“I think it’s wonderful that the state is finally coming to its senses and returning life to normal, and I’m looking forward to the federal government doing the same in May,” Marc Joffe, a policy analyst at the CATO institute, a libertarian think tank, told The Epoch Times. “I think it should have been done a long time ago. An emergency really is something that should go on for a few weeks, not a few months or years.”

Although the state’s response allowed the distribution of stimulus funds, many residents and businesses criticized Newsom for issuing several mandates, including requiring masks, closing businesses, and locking down residents and schools.

Some policies implemented during the emergency were good, Joffe said, including allowing out-of-state doctors to practice in California, but they shouldn’t have been enacted using an emergency declaration, he said.

However, imposing lockdowns, mask-wearing, and vaccine mandates were an abuse of power, Joffe said.

In 2021, Newsom issued a mandate to require COVID-19 vaccines and testing in schools. The state withdrew the policy last April.

By terminating the emergency, school vaccines will also no longer be required.

Most of the pandemic restrictions Newsom put in place have already been lifted but some had long-lasting effects. Schools were closed and required students and teachers to use remote learning for more than a year during the emergency, contributing to historically low test scores.

Public sentiment over the strict policies also fueled a recall effort launched in 2021 against the governor, which he easily won to retain his job with more than 60 percent of the vote.

Mike Netter, who spearheaded the recall effort, said the end of the emergency was well overdue.

“Today is a special day in California … California’s COVID-19 emergency is finally over,” Netter posted on Twitter. While every other state ended their emergency, Gavin Newsom continued using emergency powers that undermined fundamental principles of free government.”

During the declared health emergency, the governor used his powers to distribute federal stimulus funds for several programs, including $18.5 billion in direct payments to Californians, $8 billion for rent relief, $10 billion for small business grants and tax relief, and $2.8 billion to help residents with overdue utility bills.

Billions of dollars were also given to support hospitals, community organizations, frontline workers, and schools.

As of Feb. 23, California reported 11.1 million cases of COVID-19 and attributed 100,187 deaths to the virus. The state also administered more than 88.1 million vaccines, according to the state’s Department of Public Health.

Now California will use another strategy called the SMARTER Plan (pdf), to continue responding to the virus, Newsom said. The plan calls for continued use of vaccine recommendations, mask requirements for health care and long-term care facilities, and encouraging testing.

Newsom was one of only a few governors who continued operating under pandemic-era emergency powers this year.

New Mexico, Illinois, Rhode Island, and Texas governors have not yet ended their emergency orders despite public pressure to do so.

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker said he plans to end his emergency declaration May 11, the same day President Joe Biden expects to end the federal emergency, according to a Feb. 10 press release from his office. The other governors did not return requests for comment by press time.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has not yet signaled an end to the emergency in her state, and efforts to end them in the state’s Legislature have fallen flat.

New Mexico State Rep. Greg Nibert, a Republican from Roswell, has introduced measures several times to curb the governor’s powers. The latest attempt was squashed in a judiciary committee, but he told The Epoch Times he plans to continue pushing to pass the bills in the future.

“[Lujan Grisham] has followed Gov. Newsom’s lead on many things, including the COVID orders, so now that he’s eliminated the emergency powers in California, maybe Lujan Grisham will end them in New Mexico and we can return back to normal,” Nibert said. “It’s been a long three years. It’s about time we resume normal activities without the government interposing its power over its citizens on day-to-day operations.”

From The Epoch Times

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