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Santa Monica To End COVID Emergency

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By Jorge Casuso

January 11, 2023 -- Santa Monica will end its health emergency for the cornonavirus pandemic on February 28, nearly three years after it was declared, City officials announced Tuesday.

The decision by Santa Monica's director of emergency services, City Manager David White, coincides with the State of California's sunset of the order, which was announced by Governor Gavin Newsom in October.

The City "has not received any indication that (Los Angeles) County plans to end its health order," said Lindsay Call, the City's chief resilience officer and emergency operations director.

The initial executive order, issued on March 13, 2020 by former City Manager Rick Cole, has been followed by 44 supplements, with the latest -- issued on November 21 -- set to expire at the end of next month.

With the emergency ending, the number of City staff members working on recovery projects will be demobilized within six months, Call said.

Already, staffing at the City's Emergency Center has dwindled from 287 staff members at the height of the pandemic to 15 today, Call said.

"We're here to celebrate our progress," she told the City Council.

But Call also noted the toll the pandemic has taken on the City of 93,000, which has had more than 25,000 confirmed cases and 287 reported coronavirus-related deaths.

Call added that Los Angeles County remains in the Center for Disease Control's (CDC) Medium Community Level, based on its case and hospitalization rates.

"We're not totally out of he woods yet," she said.

By ending the emergency, the City "decreases the likelihood of receiving financial reimbursements from FEMA," Call said.

To date, Santa Monica has received a total of $1.5 million in reimbursements from FEMA to cover COVID-related projects, such as installing Plexiglas barriers at all City facilities and providing testing for staff.

An additional 13 grant projects totaling more than $3.5 million are awaiting FEMA approval, Call said, adding there is a "strong likelihood" the City will receive the reimbursement.

After the emergency ends, the City will continue to to incur "ongoing COVID costs" to meet Cal OSHA worker health requirements for the next two years.

They include recording COVID cases among staff and identifying active COVID cases and excluding them from the workplace.

The City must also continue identifying and notifying those who have had close contact with an infected worker and providing them with free testing.

In addition, the Clover Park testing site will remain open to the public through the end of March, with a month-to-month option to reopen.

Santa Monica's decision to end the emergency came the same day the Los Angeles City Council voted again to end its local emergency at the end of this month.

The vote came after a motion to extend the emergency and keep temporary tenant protections in place failed.

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