On Tuesday, state senators rejected an effort to end California’s state of emergency, a status that has been in place for more than two years as the battle against COVID-19 has persisted.
The proposal’s failure keeps in place two vital resources for hospitals:
- A waiver that enables out-of-state health care workers to practice in California — this has been a lifeline to treat alternating surges of COVID-19 patients and individuals with other health needs who had delayed care during the pandemic
- Waivers for physical space flexibilities that allow the temporary expansion of the emergency departments — expanding these spaces has enabled patients suspected of having COVID-19 to be separated from others and has supported more efficient assessment and care for all patients
While proponents of ending the state of emergency argued that receding infection and death rates show the crisis has passed, the simple fact is that this emergency is not over — California still has a major health care workforce shortage, there is a significant backlog of people needing hospital care, and there are worrisome signs from China and Europe that another surge is brewing.
China’s government has locked down Shenzhen, a city of 17.5 million people, as it tries to contain its worst-ever COVID-19 outbreak across multiple provinces, with case numbers tripling from Saturday to Sunday.
In Europe, the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and Italy, there has been a marked upswing in cases this past week. Germany’s cases spiked from a low of 1,570 per million people on March 2, to 2,330 per million people as of March 12; in the Netherlands, cases are up from a recent low of 1,956 per million people on Feb. 27 up to 3,955 per million people on March 12.
Quoting Dr. Eric Topol, founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in San Diego: “Why are many countries in Europe starting to ascend again? Relaxed mitigation measures, BA.2’s higher transmission [and] waning immunity.”
CHA testified Tuesday in opposition to ending the emergency because — if there’s one essential lesson to draw from the pandemic — it’s that we must be prepared for anything at any time and have every available tool at the ready to care for all in need.
The Legislature recognizes this and took the right steps Tuesday to move forward into this next phase of the pandemic — whatever that may look like — with cautious optimism, tempered by the knowledge that the state’s health care system continues to need help to save lives.