California, the first state to implement a lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, plans to fully reopen the state’s activities and businesses beginning June 15, based on falling infection rates and low hospitalizations in the state, Health and Human Services Mark Ghaly announced Tuesday.
Given the large number Covid-19 vaccinations administered so far – which surpasses 20 million doses today – the state will stop using the four-tiered system, dubbed the “Blueprint for a Safer Economy,” which has been in place since last August. Ghaly cited a “stable and low burden of the disease,” along with “continued improvements and low level of hospitalizations” in the state as reasoning for the plan to reopen.
California reported the lowest positivity rate in the country at 1.7%, far from its peak of 17.1% in early January when the state was reeling from a post-holiday surge.
The entire state will reopen as a whole on June 15, rather than taking the county-by-county approach that has been used for the better part of a year to tighten and relax restrictions.
State health officials will continue to use science and data to guide the reopening and variants will be closely monitored, Ghaly promised, adding that “necessary precautions” will be taken if there are any concerning rise in Covid-19 hospitalizations.
California’s mask mandate will remain in place, focused specifically on what Ghaly calls “high risk” indoor settings. “Masking is a key protective feature, protecting those that are not yet eligible for a vaccine,” Ghaly said.
California's vaccination numbers: To date, California has administered over 7 million more vaccine doses than any other state, surpassing many other countries including France and Germany, according to Ghaly. About 70% of older Californians have received at least one dose of the vaccine and over 4 million doses have been administered in the state’s hardest hit communities.
“We're looking at the supply and availability of vaccines. If the supply isn’t there, we may make some tweaks to that June 15 date. We need to make sure that all Californians interested in getting vaccinated, who are eligible, have a reasonable period of time to get that,” Ghaly said.
There is currently no plan to impose or have a vaccine passport plan system in California, but certain businesses are already exploring the option of verifying that their customers are vaccinated.
“Part of the idea is that we can ramp up safely and it will also provide an incentive as people are allowed to do more activities because they’re vaccinated,” said the state's economic adviser, Dee Dee Myers.
Some sectors, like large conventions with more than 5,000 people will be required to demonstrate that all attendees are either vaccinated or tested. That restriction will remain in place until Oct. 1. Ghaly also addressed the multi-day Coachella music festival that draws thousands to the Southern California desert annually, noting that it may not be able to reopen at the same size and scope, but state officials are working with organizers and event planners to ensure the safety of all participants.
Since Covid-19 first began menacing the world, nearly 3.6 millions Californians have been infected and more than 58,000 died as a result.