FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- After almost three years, California has turned the page from a challenging chapter. Governor Gavin Newsom ended the statewide emergency declaration almost a month ago.
However, according to Central Valley health leaders, some of the issues from the pandemic are here to stay.
"We're certainly going to take a lot of these lessons to heart moving forward," said Dr. Rais Vohra, Fresno County interim health officer.
COVID-19 cases are now part of our new normal.
"It's still circulating at low levels, and so we're still hearing about people catching it," said Dr. Vohra. "Fortunately, the numbers are way down."
Despite the decline, the county is still focusing on prevention and treatment.
According to Dr. Vohra, people shouldn't worry about a lack of tests, vaccines or COVID-19 treatment options.
"None of those are really going away," he said. "We actually feel like we have a good network of distribution in place."
Since COVID is still going around, in addition to other viruses, officials said hospitals are packed and wait times are often long.
Local patients have reported staying in busy ERs for hours or even days before being admitted.
"The other side of that is anytime anybody's been calling for an ambulance, the wait time is actually even longer as well because taking an ambulance to the emergency room doesn't mean that you get ahead of the line," said David Bacci.
The regional vice president of the Hospital Council of Northern and Central California said there's no way to help improve wait times -- now that the emergency order is over.
It ended hospitals' ability to bring in out-of-state healthcare workers and their flexibility to expand patient care areas quickly.
"The new way that they have to work is to anticipate what they might need, get permission from the state, and then open up space," Bacci said.
Health leaders don't want this to keep patients away from getting the necessary health care. They just want people to be prepared for some challenges.
According to officials, the only solution to those challenges is increasing the healthcare workforce -- which is proving to be a tough task.
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