LOS ANGELES – The nation’s most populous county, Los Angeles, is going to try to put the coronavirus pandemic behind it – a year after Arizona took a similar action.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously this week to end its COVID-19 emergency declaration on March 31. The change came after California made a similar move, even as the state surpassed 100,000 deaths due to COVID-19.
“These past few years were the darkest many of us have lived through,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn, who introduced the motion. “COVID is still with us, but it is not an emergency.”
“The county’s sustained preparedness, infrastructure, and available tools in combating COVID-19 demonstrate that it is time to evaluate the county’s readiness to terminate the emergency declaration,” stated Hahn’s motion.
On the same day supervisors were taking their vote, California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a proclamation ending the state’s COVID-19 emergency, a plan that had been in the works since October.
County supervisors said they relied on guidance from both the county and state health agencies, which are reporting a dwindling number of COVID-19 deaths, in making the change.
“At the time of the declaration we were very uncertain.” said Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who co-sponsored the motion. “Now three years later we are no longer at the point of needing the same level of response.”
Los Angeles County, which includes the city of Los Angeles and scores of suburban communities, has had slightly more COVID-19 deaths than in all of Arizona: 35,704 vs. 33,07, as of Thursday.
But Los Angeles County has more residents than Arizona: 9.8 million vs. 7.3 million as of July 2021, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Some residents who spoke to the board were supportive of ending the emergency.
“Three years is not an emergency,” said Roxanne Hoge, a resident.
Arizona officials decided they were able to exit emergency status quicker. In acting on the issue last March, then-Gov. Doug Ducey also talked about treating COVID-19 as something that needs to be managed.
“This virus isn’t completely gone, but because of the vaccine and other life-saving measures, today we are better positioned to manage and mitigate it,” Ducey said in a statement at the time.
Going forward, California health officials will enact what they call the SMARTER plan for the next phase of COVID-19. SMARTER stands for shots, masks, attention, readiness, treatments, education, and Rx – the shorthand for prescriptions.
The Biden administration has decided to end the federal emergency on May 11.
Los Angeles County expects to continue mobile vaccination sites and testing would be available to residents who need it most.