California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom officially ended the COVID state of emergency on Tuesday, nearly three years after placing residents under strict lockdown orders and expanding his legal powers as chief executive of the state.
Newsom became one of the first governor’s in the U.S. to declare a statewide COVID emergency on March 4, 2020, and has previously said that maintaining the state of emergency was important for California to curb the spread of the virus.
“California is better prepared, and that’s because we have a serious Legislature and the health ecosystem in California is second to none in the country,” Newsom told the Los Angeles Times.
Newsom’s end comes just after California’s Department of Public Health reported that the state confirmed more than 100,000 deaths related to the virus.
California currently ranks 11th as the country’s lowest COVID death rate per capita, according to the Times.
Under the proclamation, Newsom issued a stay-at-home order that lasted approximately 16 months and capitalized on his authority over state regulations, laws, and state funds.
Critics accuse the governor of shutting down the economy, harming businesses and families as companies and schools were forced to close. When schools and companies returned to everyday life in California and other states nationwide, Newsom kept the directive going. Republicans have called out Newsom over extending the declaration and even requested that lawmakers hold a vote to get rid of the order.
Republican state Senator Melissa Melendez said, pushing for her measure last year, that the state legislature should do its job to address COVID.
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“We ended school years, and we shuttered businesses, and we implemented lockdowns, and we enforced remote work, and we implemented all sorts of policies and testing,” Melendez said. “We have grown over the last few years. We are equipped to deal with this and this constant state of emergency is no longer necessary.”
Newsom faced criticism across the political spectrum for his extensive orders in response to COVID — from shifting positions on mask mandates and attempting to force businesses and schools to enact vaccine requirements.
In November 2020, Newsom and his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, were spotted maskless outside their households at the upscale Napa Valley restaurant French Laundry as COVID cases soared across the state. The negative media coverage painted the governor as a hypocrite after advising Californians to avoid socializing in person with anyone outside their households, especially during the holiday season.
Newsom also defeated a recall for his governorship, an effort that gained significant momentum as Californians became increasingly fed up with the emergency powers during the pandemic.
Residents across the state have been escaping Newsom’s rule of California in droves, especially since 2020, when the Democratic leader and the primarily Left-wing legislature shut down the state in response to COVID.
Amid high taxes already killing the middle class, skyrocketing crime rates, rampant homelessness, and an unaffordable housing crisis, many Republicans say the effectively one-party system on the West Coast essentially turned California into a feudal state, or as some conservative leaders called it, a socialist nightmare.
In December, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that California lost more residents than any other state in 2022, with more than 300,000 people fleeing, marking the third consecutive year that California’s population declined.
Over the last three years, census data revealed California’s population dropped by more than 500,000 between April 2020 and July 2022, with nearly 700,000 residents leaving the state, with almost half of the residents escaping Los Angeles.
California becomes one of the last states to drop the emergency.
According to The Associated Press, five other states — including Delaware, Illinois, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Texas — are still under the declaration.
President Joe Biden announced last month the federal government would end the COVID emergency declarations on May 11.