New California Golden Fleece® Award: COVID-19 Failures in California: News Releases: The Independent Institute

The Power of Independent Thinking


Stay Connected
Get the latest updates straight to your inbox.

News Release
April 27, 2021

New California Golden Fleece® Award: COVID-19 Failures in California

Oakland, CA— California agencies failed to plan effectively, failed to prepare, and failed to respond quickly or at all to the pandemic. When government agencies did respond, they found themselves playing a high-stakes game of catch-up, as many regulations imposed for years, even decades, prevented quick, efficient, and flexible responses.

Eliminating burdensome regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic sped up the delivery of critical supplies and personnel to California’s citizens, according to authors of a new report from the Independent Institute. The authors say if it works during this crisis, it will work when the crisis is over.

“If removing harmful regulations during a crisis is the moral action to help patients and save lives, it would be immoral to reimpose the same regulations when the crisis ends,” said Lawrence McQuillan, Ph.D., Independent Institute Sr. Fellow and co-author of the report.

For enacting or enforcing regulations that created crucial healthcare shortages and prevented a fast and efficient response by public and private entities to COVID-19, the Independent Institute awards its eleventh California Golden Fleece® Award to several federal and state officials and regulatory agencies.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom relaxed many regulations, which helped to alleviate healthcare shortages. But he usually was reactive, rather than proactive, waiting for bottlenecks to emerge. He also loaned 550 ventilators to other states at a time when Santa Clara County officials were asking for donations. And he signed multi-billion-dollar contracts with PCR-testing companies, yet PCR tests were worthless at containing the spread of the virus because test results took too long. Newsom used the resulting outbreaks to justify endless lockdowns.

The pandemic exposed the ways that regulations are used in California to benefit narrow interest groups at the expense of consumers at large. COVID-19 taught a crash course to Californians on the downside of excessive regulation and the benefits of liberalization.

California’s shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), medical supplies, and healthcare workers were all largely avoidable, if not for past missteps by governments. Lockdowns could have been prevented, if not for the government’s failed approach to testing. Lifesaving vaccine and therapeutic drug development could be fast-tracked if lessons learned during this pandemic are applied in the future.

Specific patient-centered recommendations are offered, which should be adopted permanently:

  • Allow private companies around the world to supply equipment urgently needed by healthcare workers.
  • Eliminate staffing regulations and barriers that prevent optimal access to healthcare professionals when and where they are needed.
  • Permanently allow telemedicine across state lines.
  • Ease testing restrictions to allow private companies to quickly provide at-home nonprescription testing for all diseases.
  • Streamline clinical trials and FDA reviews of trial data.
  • Use a “prize model” to incentivize innovation.

The COVID-19 surges in California would have been easier to manage had markets, not regulations, determined healthcare staffing and supply chains over past decades, the report argues. And lockdowns and rationing of routine care could have been largely avoided. Through their various liberalization decrees issued during the COVID-19 outbreak, government officials essentially admitted that current healthcare regulations harm patients. Those liberalizations, and others, should be adopted permanently after the pandemic.

Credentials: Lawrence J. McQuillan, Ph.D., is founder and director of the California Golden Fleece® Awards. He is also a senior fellow with the Independent Institute and director of the Independent Institute’s Center on Entrepreneurial Innovation. He is the author of California Dreaming: Lessons on How to Resolve America’s Public Pension Crisis

To interview Lawrence J. McQuillan, contact Robert Ade, [email protected], or (510) 635-3690.


100 Swan Way, Oakland, CA 94621-1428

The Independent Institute is a non-profit research and educational organization that promotes the power of independent thinking to boldly advance peaceful, prosperous, and free societies grounded in a commitment to human worth and dignity. For more information, visit

  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless