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February 28 marks the end of California’s COVID State of Emergency, almost three years since California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared COVID-19 a public health emergency, giving his administration broad power to issue mandates and use state funds to fight the virus.

It also enabled the governor to enter into nearly $12 billion dollars worth of no-bid emergency response contracts with testing facilities, personal protective equipment suppliers and temporary workforce agencies. Some of those contracts were with untested vendors who failed to deliver services.

Newsom has extended the state of emergency five times over the course of the pandemic, most recently last June.

The duration of the state of emergency has been controversial among state Republican leaders who attempted to overturn the governor’s power during a Senate emergency meeting last March. The resolution to terminate the state of emergency was voted down 8-4, with senators voting along party lines.

The SMARTER plan’s rollout has been a key component in eliminating the need for emergency provisions, officials said.

Last year the administration unveiled the SMARTER plan, its $3.2 billion long-term strategy for combating COVID-19. The strategy outlined preparedness measures such as stockpiling 75 million masks, increasing testing capacity to half a million tests per day and investing in the health care workforce and local community health organizations.

But some disagree it’s the right time to end the state’s emergency powers. Carmela Coyle, head of the California Hospital Association, told The New York Times earlier this month that February was “a terrible time to end the public health emergency,” because of ongoing strain on California’s hospitals.

In January, the White House announced that the federal state of emergency for COVID will end on May 11over two months after California ends its own. And to complicate matters a little more, there are actually two federal emergencies ending May 11: the national emergency, and the public health emergency.

California has recently enacted several laws that force insurers to keep covering COVID care even after the state and federal states of emergency wind down.

Senate Bill 510 requires insurers in California to keep covering COVID costs like testing and vaccination after the national emergency ends. On the national level, the White House’s COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish K. Jha has promised that COVID vaccines will remain free in the U.S. for insured people as a preventive service covered under the Affordable Care Act of 2010.

Meanwhile, another California law – Senate Bill 1473 – requires insurers to not only keep covering the costs of COVID therapeutic treatments like Paxlovid, but also to keep reimbursing their members for the costs of up to eight over-the-counter COVID tests a month. But this law only keeps the current situation in place until six months after the end of the federal emergency on Nov. 11.

San Francisco had its own Public Health Emergency Declaration for COVID in effect, and several programs for San Francisco residents. San Francisco officials announced that the city’s public health emergency would be coming to an end at the same time as the state’s, on Feb. 28.

And on Feb. 3 the California Department of Health finally announced that the state’s schoolkids would not now have to get a COVID vaccine, and that the department was “not currently exploring emergency rulemaking to add COVID-19 to the list of required school vaccinations,” adding, “but we continue to strongly recommend COVID-19 immunization for students and staff to keep everyone safer in the classroom.”