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This week Governor Gavin Newsom announced that the COVID-19 State of Emergency will end on February 28, 2023, charting the path to phasing out one of the tools that California has used to combat COVID-19.

This timeline gives the health care system needed flexibility to handle any potential surge that may occur after the holidays in January and February, in addition to providing state and local partners the time needed to prepare for this phaseout and set themselves up for success afterwards.

With hospitalizations and deaths dramatically reduced, California has the tools needed to continue fighting COVID-19 when the State of Emergency terminates at the end of February, including vaccines and boosters, testing, treatments and other mitigation measures like masking and indoor ventilation.

As the State of Emergency is phased out, the SMARTER Plan continues to guide California’s strategy to best protect people from COVID-19.

To maintain California’s COVID-19 laboratory testing and therapeutics treatment capacity, the Newsom Administration will be seeking two statutory changes immediately upon the Legislature’s return: 1) The continued ability of nurses to dispense COVID-19 therapeutics; and 2) The continued ability of laboratory workers to solely process COVID-19 tests.

“California’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has prepared us for whatever comes next. As we move into this next phase, the infrastructure and processes we’ve invested in and built up will provide us the tools to manage any ups and downs in the future,” said Secretary of the California Health & Human Services Agency, Dr. Mark Ghaly. “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.”

In February the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) released the California SMARTER Plan: The Next Phase of California’s COVID-19 Response to guide the state’s work on the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The SMARTER Plan looks at where the state has been, draws on lessons learned from our collective experiences, and lays out a clear path for how California will remain prepared for what COVID-19 might bring next. The essential elements of this plan are:

– – Shots – Vaccines are the most powerful weapon against hospitalization and serious illness.
– – Masks – Properly worn masks with good filtration help slow the spread of COVID-19 or other respiratory viruses.
– – Awareness – We will continue to stay aware of how COVID-19 is spreading, closely track evolving variants, communicate clearly how people should protect themselves, and coordinate our state and local government response.
– – Readiness – COVID-19 isn’t going away, and we need to be ready with the tools, resources and supplies we will need to quickly respond and keep the health care system well prepared.
– – Testing – Getting the right type of tests – PCR or antigen – to where they are needed most. Testing will help California minimize the spread of COVID-19.
– – Education – California will continue to work to keep schools open and children safely in classrooms for in-person instruction.
– – Rx – Evolving and improving treatments will become increasingly available and critical as a tool to save lives.

The latest progress update on the implementation of the California SMARTER Plan was just published this October.