Coronavirus Update

California Governor Gavin Newsom Reneges on Surrendering Emergency Powers

California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks during a visit by First Lady Jill Biden at The Forty Acres, the first headquarters of the United Farm Workers labor union, in Delano, Calif., March 31, 2021. (Mandel Ngan/Pool via Reuters)

During a vaccine lottery event Friday, Democratic California governor Gavin Newsom reneged on his promise to lift the state’s emergency declaration after June 15, allowing him to retain the powers to mandate sweeping COVID restrictions.

“The one thing I am certain of is: There’s uncertainty in the future,” said Newsom. “The emergency remains in effect after June 15.”

When asked for his justification for backtracking on his pledge to Californians, the governor responded, “Because we’re still in a state of emergency. This disease is still in effect. It is not taking the summer off.”

He implied that he may need to use the emergency powers again. “Some modifications may need to be in order on the basis of changing conditions,” he remarked.

Reporters also questioned Newsom about the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (CalOSHA) board’s decision that seemed to approve recommending masks for everyone in a workplace if some employees are still unvaccinated. Such a policy would keep the mask mandate past Newsom’s stated expiration date for the requirements. The board has arranged a subcommittee to examine the issue further.

“The dust is settling. They’ve got a subcommittee that’s meeting to follow up on some of the work. They’re moving in the right direction,” Newsom commented on the CalOSHA matter.

“We’re working through this. This is the sausage-making process. We’ve already had a number of conversations earlier this morning about people’s feelings about what happened last night. I think it’s helpful that the governor is not dictating and mandating those decisions in advance. . . . We are in an iterative process of engagement. . . . We hope to let folks know more about our next steps very shortly,” Newsom said.

The governor reiterated the efficacy and importance of wearing masks, despite the mass rollout of vaccines nationwide and plummeting transmission rates for the virus. “Face coverings remain an important part of our arsenal to fight this disease,” he affirmed.

Newsom’s flip-flopping on COVID restrictions and his unwillingness to forfeit his pandemic emergency authority comes as a recall movement to remove him as governor has gained widespread support from over a million petitioners. The effort was largely inspired by Newsom’s coronavirus policies, which have included some of the strictest lockdown measures in the U.S.

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