Newsom eliminates most pandemic-related health orders, focusing on testing, vaccines

California continues to shift its sights towards its ‘endemic’ COVID-19 plan, with Gov. Gavin Newsom announcing Friday that he would roll back the vast majority of executive orders implemented in response to the pandemic.

Only 15% of the 561 executive orders enacted by Newsom in response to the pandemic are still in effect. With Friday's move, the governor scaled that back even further, with plans to eliminate all but a few dozen over the next few months. Those that will remain, the governor says, are critical to the state's SMARTER plan.

That plan, announced last week, is how the state hopes to deal with COVID-19 long term. With an emphasis on education, testing, vaccination and healthcare infrastructure, state leaders see it as a way to mitigate future surges of the virus and its variants while being able to coexist with the virus.

"California’s early and decisive measures to combat COVID-19 have saved countless lives throughout the pandemic, and as the recent Omicron surge made clear, we must remain prepared to quickly and effectively respond to changing conditions in real time," Newsom said in a press release. "As we move the state’s recovery forward, we’ll continue to focus on scaling back provisions while maintaining essential testing, vaccination and health care system supports that ensure California has the needed tools and flexibility to strategically adapt our response for what lies ahead."

SUGGESTED: SMARTER: California announces plan to deal with COVID for the long haul

Under the order signed by the governor Friday, 19 of the remaining provisions are terminated immediately, an additional 18 will be lifted on March 31 and 15 will expire on June 30. The provisions staying in place the governor says are meant to reduce potential strain on the state health care system and bolster California's COVID-19 testing and vaccination programs. Under the SMARTER plan's goals, the state should be able to administer 200,000 COVID vaccine doses a day and 500,000 tests.

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Carmela Coyle, President of the California Hospital Association, says that Friday's moves to bolster hospital assistance come at the right time.

"California’s health care delivery system remains deeply strained because of the pandemic," she said. "Hospital capacity is still stretched beyond normal as people who delayed needed care are now being seen and 20 percent of health care workers have left the field. Today’s extension of certain key, temporary flexibilities means that hospitals can continue to use things like tents to receive and triage patients and retain out-of-state health care personnel to maximize care capacity throughout the state."

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