By LUKE MONEY, RONG-GONG LIN IIJUNE 4, 2021 3:11 PM PT
[From the LA Times]
California’s COVID-19 state of emergency order will remain in place beyond June 15, despite plans to fully reopen the state’s economy on that date, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday.
The state of emergency declaration — issued in early March 2020, when coronavirus cases started to mushroom statewide — gives Newsom and health officials broad authority to temporarily impose new rules and restrictions, a power they’ve exercised numerous times throughout the pandemic.
But even with California enjoying the lowest COVID-19 case rate of any state and hospitalizations near record lows, the danger has not passed, the governor said.
“We’re still in a state of emergency. This disease has not been extinguished. It’s not vanished. It’s not taking the summer months off,” he said.
The scope of the state’s public health authority has been a source of contention and the subject of legal challenges throughout the pandemic.
Dozens of orders have been issued since the state of emergency was declared; among them were California’s mask mandate and the directive that ballots be mailed to voters for last November’s election.
Though the California Constitution gives the power to create laws only to the Legislature, a state appeals court ruled just last month that the 1970 California Emergency Services Act grants the governor the power to change state law during a crisis.
The three-judge panel of the Sacramento-based 3rd District Court of Appeal said the Emergency Services Act is constitutional because it provides only temporary powers and contains “an important safeguard.” The court said that safeguard was a requirement that the governor, or the Legislature, proclaim an end to the emergency at the earliest possible date.
“If Newsom believes the state is safe enough to reopen, then it’s safe for people to be able to make decisions for themselves without his arbitrary and capricious rules,” state Senate Republican leader Scott Wilk of Saugus said in a statement Friday. “I believe it is time for him to hang up his crown and restore our democracy.”
In response to a follow-up inquiry from The Times, Newsom’s office said: “The state of emergency ensures that the state can continue to respond quickly to evolving conditions as the pandemic persists. The governor will end the state of emergency once conditions no longer warrant an emergency response. While the state of emergency won’t end on June 15, we look forward to fully reopening the economy and retiring the blueprint as greater numbers of Californians are vaccinated.”