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California’s COVID-19 state of emergency to end Feb. 28

A COVID-19 testing center runs at the Serna Center in Sacramento, Calif, on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022. The center is open for SCUSD district students, staff and household members.
Andrew Nixon
A COVID-19 testing center runs at the Serna Center in Sacramento, Calif, on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022. The center is open for SCUSD district students, staff and household members.

The emergency order was issued on March 5, 2020 and allowed for an influx of almost 600 provisions that enabled more medical providers to give COVID-19 related care and freed up funding for spending on protective equipment and treatment space.

The Governor’s office announced the State of Emergency would be phased out last October. California is one of the last seven states to still have an emergency order in place.

In October, California Health and Human Services Secretary, Dr. Mark Ghaly said that “while the threat of this virus is still real, our preparedness and collective work have helped turn this once crisis emergency into a manageable situation.”

So what will change in people’s day to day lives? Not much, says Dr. Aimee Sisson, Yolo County Health Officer. That’s because most jurisdictions have already lifted many of their mask and vaccine mandates.

“A lot of this is financial and formal in terms of flexibilities of staffing,” she said.

Her biggest message? “COVID, unfortunately, will not disappear on March 1st,” she said. “I'm still going to be recommending all of those things just like I did on February 28th when the emergency was in place.”

Although the holiday season passed without a large COVID-19 surge, the virus continues to spread through the country. In California, about 30people diedaily from the disease, and, nationwide, some 450 die each day.

In both Sacramento and Yolo counties, the CDC’s community transmission level is currently at “medium” and pop-up infrastructure that opened during the height of the pandemic is closing down. Yolo County’s OptumServe test-to-treat mobile bus shuttered earlier this month. However, itstest kit vending machines are still distributing antigen tests, and the county is maintaining a contract with Sesame Health through May for telehealth treatment services.

That federal state of emergency will be phased out on May 11, and experts agree that this will have a far-reaching impact on people with limited or no insurance.

Sisson says when the federal emergency ends, California residents without health insurance will likely have more trouble getting low-cost tests, Paxlovid and vaccines. Residents with health insurance will lose access to the eight free tests they were eligible for t each month from pharmacies, but most vaccines and treatments will be covered by their health plans.

“I think, you know, we're unfortunately returning to the hodgepodge that is America's healthcare system,” she said. “It's a problem that we have with every other disease. And it's been wonderful that we've essentially had universal health care when it comes to COVID.”

Of major concern to Sisson and other public health leaders is that many people will begin to lose their Medi-Cal coverage this spring, when the relaxed eligibility system for Medicaidexpires, and counties will need to redetermine if people can keep their plans.

California’s Department of Health Care Services is currently trying to raise awareness about that change and to get people from all communities to re-enroll in their coverage plans.

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