Why California Is Still in a State of Emergency
Wednesday: Even as coronavirus pandemic rules are lifted, the official emergency status will continue. Here’s what that means.,
California has one of the lowest coronavirus case rates in the nation. And after being one of the nation’s most stringently locked down states for more than a year, the state next week will lift nearly all of its pandemic rules in what officials have said they are confident will be a safe, triumphant reopening.
So why, then, are we still in a state of emergency? And why will we continue to be in a state of emergency, even after June 15?
Those are questions that have been raised by opponents of Gov. Gavin Newsom, who have accused him of using the ongoing emergency to wield what they describe as despotic power, claiming the proclamation as cover to impose overly strict and unnecessary regulations.
This week, a small group of Republican state lawmakers sent the governor a letter urging him to end the state of emergency or explain why he won’t.
“Ending the state of emergency is not optional,” one of the letter’s authors, Kevin Kiley, said in a tweet.
Of course, it’s important to remember that this push is coming in the midst of an effort to recall Newsom from office.
A few days before sending the letter, Kiley himself tweeted: “It hardly even matters that Gov. Newsom is refusing to end the State of Emergency on June 15.” The governor, he wrote, will “keep abusing his power until he’s removed.”
Still, the moment has created confusion about what is usually a prosaic part of the state’s response to any of the myriad disasters California so often faces: the declaration of an emergency under California’s Emergency Services Act.
State officials said this week that the pandemic state of emergency, which Newsom declared on March 4, 2020, isn’t unusual.
Formal states of emergency routinely extend long past the immediate crisis, because they allow ongoing aid programs and recovery efforts to continue without interruption.
“The emergency doesn’t stop after a wildfire is contained,” Alex Pal, chief counsel with the Office of Emergency Services, told me. “After an earthquake, the emergency doesn’t stop after the shaking ends.”
Many emergencies related to fires and floods in recent years are still active, including the one related to the devastating and deadly Camp Fire in 2018; there are still efforts to clear debris and rebuild.
The official proclamation of an emergency, Pal explained, does give the governor the authority to use state assets and suspend regulations. But it also allows the state to more easily tap into federal aid.
What has set the pandemic emergency apart is its scale and breadth.
“With Covid, it was unprecedented, and it impacted every sector of the state,” Pal said. “With a fire, there’s usually one jurisdiction and a few sectors.”
Still, Alex Stack, a spokesman for the governor, said Newsom’s use of emergency authority had been effective.
His orders have allowed state workers to shift into contact tracing roles and relaxed criteria for which professionals can administer vaccines. The vaccine rollout, Stack said, is something that will continue to require support from both local and federal agencies.
He said there were no estimates for when the state of emergency might be lifted.
“We’re approaching this reopening date,” Stack said, adding that there are still many unknowns. “We would need to be able to keep the state of emergency in place just in case we needed to move quickly to respond to outbreaks.”
Here’s what else to know today
Compiled by Jonathan Wolfe
Vice President Kamala Harris concluded her first trip abroad, a high-stakes trip to Mexico and Guatemala during which she took on the politically volatile issue of immigration.
Many Asian Americans, facing a wave of anti-Asian attacks, remain afraid of returning to a summer of normalcy, even as the coronavirus pandemic recedes.
Some Black parents in Los Angeles said they chose to keep their children in distance learning after schools reopened to shield them from inequitable treatment on campus, The Los Angeles Times reports.
The Times of San Diego held a virtual Q. and A. among the four Republican candidates in the recall election.
CalMatters found that four counties with mostly Latino populations don’t have any Latino Superior Court judges.
The San Francisco Chronicle looked at the Bay Area-based cloud computing company Fastly, which caused a massive outage across websites on Tuesday.
A Times reporter takes a visual tour of the drought in the Western states.
The San Francisco Chronicle explains who’s eligible to apply for Oakland’s guaranteed basic income program.
Pandemic burnout is also hitting young TikTok creators, some of whom are struggling with mental health issues.
Some residents complain about the noise and aggression of the peacocks in Los Angeles County. Now, officials are considering an ordinance to stop people from feeding them.
The Coast Guard rescued a California man who tried to kayak from Sausalito to Hawaii, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Chris Harrison, the longtime host of “The Bachelor,” has parted ways with the reality TV franchise after nearly 20 years.
And finally …
Every Saturday, during a stretch of the pandemic, visitors from as far away as Malibu headed across Los Angeles to an Altadena driveway. There, they could hear something rare for the moment: live music.
Not just any live music — free live music with prominent guests including the Emmy Award-winning composer William Ross and Larry Blank, resident pops conductor of the Pasadena Symphony and Pops. The series was started by Irina Voloshina, a local musician and recording artist who performs with the symphony.
The Los Angeles-based photographer Maggie Shannon (who recently took us to prom across the state) captured these images of a recent performance.
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Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, graduated from U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter.