CA Pandemic Emergency Officially Ends Feb. 28

President Biden this week announced plans to end the nation’s Covid public health emergency in May, signaling that the pandemic has moved into a less dire phase.

California’s version is set to end even sooner.

The state’s coronavirus emergency declaration will expire on Feb. 28, almost three years after it began. It gave Gov. Gavin Newsom broad power to issue mandates intended to slow the spread of the virus, as well as to bypass certain state laws. He announced in October that he would end the emergency in February, and a spokesperson from his office confirmed on Wednesday that that’s still his plan.

The sunsetting of the emergency declaration, which has been the basis for more than 500 legal and policy measures in California, reflects a shift in how state officials are approaching the pandemic, experts say. Newsom released a statewide plan last year that calls for treating the virus as a manageable risk, as opposed to a crisis.

The coronavirus is still killing about 40 people a day in California, and is infecting people at the level of a “very bad flu season,” said Dr. Timothy Brewer, an epidemiologist at U.C.L.A. But the state seems to have avoided a catastrophic winter surge, and reports of new cases have been falling in recent weeks. Three-fourths of all Californians have received at least an initial vaccination against the virus.

So more than ever in California, the virus has become something we live with, as scientists in the early days of the pandemic predicted that it eventually would. Health experts still strongly advise staying up-to-date on vaccines and boosters, and wearing a mask in high-risk environments, but they aren’t as quick to recommend many other behavioral changes that were once considered necessary.

Barbara Ferrer, the Los Angeles County public health director, recently said that she had started eating indoors at restaurants — for the first time since the pandemic began. Dr. Bob Wachter, chair of U.C.S.F.’s department of medicine, has said that the recent case rates are low enough in the Bay Area that indoor dining feels tolerable, though he’s still wearing a KN-95 mask when grocery shopping.

“I want to live as fully as I can, but am comfortable taking reasonable steps to avoid infection,” Wachter said on Twitter.

The coronavirus is unlikely to burn out altogether, and it’s possible that the emergence of new variants could lead to another big surge, Brewer told me. But for now, he said, the virus seems likely to follow a pattern similar to influenza — circulating year-round and peaking in the colder months.

“I think the way you think about Covid going forward is, you don’t let Covid determine your life — life goes on, even though Covid is out there,” Brewer said. He thinks it’s unlikely that we’ll ever be totally done with Covid. Still, he said, “there does seem to be this need to bring about closure, even though the virus isn’t going anywhere.”

Soumya Karlamangla is a reporter for California Today, the New York Times. Copyright, 2023, The New York Times


  1. Just an Observation,

    Since FEDERAL FUNDS regarding the FEDERAL EMERGENCY ORDER will continue until May, do not be surprised if the Governor changes the date.

    THe state will lose out on Federal Funds for dealing with the Covid issue. But more imprtantly, it seems to be getting more dangerous again.

    CINCINNATI (WKRC) – Just when we start to think the pandemic may be ending, the CDC is tracking another new potentially dangerous coronavirus variant called Orthrus CH.1.1.

    It got its name from a variant tracker in Australia. Orthrus in Greek mythology was a two-headed cattle dog.

    It looks very unique. So, does this new CH 1.1 variant.

    Technically, we really aren’t at the end of the emergency phase of this pandemic.

    “The Covid Emergency will end when the Supreme Court ends it. We’ve extended it to May the 15th to make sure we get everything done. That’s all,” said President Joe Biden.

    Dr. Blatt says we need to consider the timing of CH 1.1.

    “The problem is it’s really hard to compare a virus that comes out now when we have a lot of immunity in the population, versus a virus that was here you know back at the end of 2020 or 2021 before we have vaccines.

    Variant trackers do point out however, this has been rising globally since November and any new variant has the potential to evade vaccine or natural immunity and be highly transmissible.”

    Here we go again, you all want to fake it till you make it regarding the safety and Covid. I wonder what you will say if by the end of the month we are extending the state of emergency not only in the state but the federal one too.

  2. Correction:

    The actual emergency ended in late 2020 when it was clear 99%+ of people were not severely impacted by COVID (which should’ve adjusted the plan to ONLY protecting the vulnerable) – but the manufactured emergency in CA persisted for much longer. This is an important distinction.

    So the headline should read: The Power Grab Will Sort of End on Feb. 28

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