Tuesday, Feb. 28, marked the end of the Covid-19 State of Emergency in California as the Executive Order issued on March 4, 2020, has now been officially rescinded.
The Covid state of emergency was first declared by Governor Gavin Newsom in March 2020, and since then has been extended on five separate occasions. The Governor provided months of notice that the pandemic executive orders would end on Feb. 28, 2023, when he made the initial announcement in October. The purpose of providing this additional notice was to allow local entities the time needed to make the transition back to existing legislative rules.
Portions of nearly 27 executive orders were still in effect as a result of the original emergency order, and those provisions have now expired. This number is less substantial when we consider that there were 74 executive orders issued under the authority of the original emergency order with more than 450 provisions or changes of existing law.
These included rules related to the processing of Covid tests, waiving regulatory protections to allow for more expansive vaccinations, and to regulating the price of infant formula. Now that the original March 4, 2020 order has ended, these provisions are all no longer in effect.
So, which rules remain in place now that the emergency order has ended? These will be the rules that have separate legislative authority, or have been made by an agency, such as the Courts or Cal-OSHA, under their own authority.
Cal-OSHA recently released updated regulations on Feb. 3, 2023, regarding Covid in the workplace, continuing the requirements of exposure notification, and provision of testing. However, Cal-OSHA removed the requirement of wage continuation which was included in the prior emergency regulations.
Flexibility in hospital bed limits will also now end. Previously, additional hospital beds could be added on a temporary basis to accommodate a surge in Covid patients.
While some helpful measures are expiring, pending legislation would allow for nurses and lab assistants to prescribe Covid medications and process test results. AB 269 would create a statutory exemption to allow nurses to dispense Covid medications to patients and not require that this be done by a physician.
This provision, if passed, would be temporary and would expire on Jan. 1, 2024.AB 269 would also allow for testing of suspected Covid samples to be processed by non-physicians in laboratories who handle Covid testing. This provision was also previously provided for by executive order, but now a more permanent legislative authority would allow this process to continue.
In the workers’ compensation realm, we did have AB 1751 which extended but did not alter the Covid presumption laws for employees who contract Covid at work. The Covid presumptions will continue to remain in effect until Jan. 1, 2024. There is no bill currently pending before the legislature that would again extend the expiration date.
While the ending of the state of emergency is seen as a significant day in Covid history, the virus will literally continue to live among us. Other changes that will continue include remote hearings at the WCAB district offices, Zoom depositions, and electronic service of documents, to name a few. The effects of the pandemic are here to stay.
Zane P. Uribarri is a partner at Bradford and Barthel’s Ontario office, where he is a member of the firm’s Covid Response Team. If you have questions about workers’ compensation defense issues, please feel free to contact Zane at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 909.476.0552.
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