Gov. Gavin Newsom says California’s COVID-19 state of emergency will end on Feb. 28, just four days three years since he issued the first of countless orders he said are needed to deal with the pandemic.
“During the pandemic, we have been guided by science and data, moving quickly and strategically to save lives,” Newsom said in October when announcing the February end date. “The state of emergency has been an effective and necessary tool that we have used to protect our state and without it we would not have gotten to this point.”
The effectiveness of Newsom’s pandemic orders will be debated for years, especially the closures of schools and businesses and the billions of dollars in no-bid contracts issued by his administration.
What cannot be argued, however, is that their impact on millions of Californians will last for years, decades, or perhaps even generations.
Nearly 3 million Californians have lost their jobs due to the shutdown orders. While the state has, on paper, reclaimed all the jobs it lost, countless small businesses that closed their doors have not reopened.
With home working the growing norm, restaurants and other businesses dependent on concentrated employment have been hit. The downtowns of the state’s largest cities, including the state capital, Sacramento, were emptied and, by and large, have not recovered.
California’s stark gap between rich and poor has widened. High-income Californians could do their jobs from home, but low-income service workers simply lost their jobs. Some qualified for unemployment insurance, but a managerial meltdown at the state Department of Employment Development delayed benefits for legitimate claimants, sometimes for months, as EDD doled out billions of dollars to scammers.
School closures and patchy efforts to continue education via the Internet have had a devastating effect on students, especially those from poor families lacking technology and whose parents could not work from home. The “achievement gap” that has long plagued California’s public school system has widened further, according to recent research.
Several new studies add even more evidence that measures taken by the state to combat COVID-19 will have long-term negative impacts.
An analysis by the Associated Press, Stanford University’s Big Local News Project, and Stanford education professor Thomas Dee determined that 234,000 students in 21 states have disappeared from public school records during the pandemic. More than half of them were in California.
Overall, enrollment in those states fell by about 700,000 students, but most of the decline could be explained by private school enrollments, trips to other states, or shifts to homeschooling. Of the remaining 234,000 absences for which there was no explanation, the researchers said, 152,000 were in California.
The Public Policy Institute of California analyzed the numbers and found that not only did COVID-19 kill an estimated 100,000 Californians, but that the state’s life expectancy, which had been tied for the highest in the nation with Hawaii at 80.9 years, it fell by two years—the first such decline since World War II.
PPIC found that the higher death rate disproportionately affected non-white Californians, particularly Latino and black residents. “Between 2019 and 2021, the death rate (deaths per 1,000 residents) increased 51% among Latino, 31% among black, 26% among Asian-American, and 17% among white” , the PPIC reported.
Finally, a new study from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research found that Newsom’s stay-at-home orders, affecting businesses, day care and school, created financial hardship that led to psychological distress and a sharp increase in unrest and conflict. including domestic violence. .
Some COVID-19 victims are experiencing long-lasting COVID, with lasting debilitating effects. California also suffers from lingering effects.
About the author
Dan Walters has been a reporter for nearly 60 years, spending nearly all of those years working for California newspapers. He began his professional career in 1960 at the age of 16 at the Humboldt Times. For more articles by Walters, go to calmtters.org/commentary.
Make your voice heard
GV Wire encourages vigorous debate by individuals and organizations on local, state and national issues. Send your op-ed to [email protected] for consideration.