After more than a year of restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19, California is expected to allow a full reopening of businesses and activities on June 15 due to a low case rate and increasing vaccinations.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the expected statewide June reopening Tuesday during a visit to San Francisco’s City College COVID-19 vaccine site at the Ocean Avenue campus, declaring: “We will be opening up this economy.”
“We can confidently say by June 15 that we can start to open up as business as usual, subject to ongoing mask wearing and ongoing vigilance,” Newsom said.
That means that come mid-June there will no longer be color-coded state tiers — purple, red, orange and yellow — imposing different limits on activities and businesses depending on the tier a county was assigned according to metrics like case rates and testing. The system was referred to as the state’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy.”
There are two main criteria for achieving the June 15 opening. There must be an adequate supply of the vaccine for all Californians aged 16 or older who wish to be vaccinated, according to a memo from the California Department of Public Health. And hospitalizations must remain “stable and low.”
Activities and businesses would be able to “return to usual operations” while adhering to some “common-sense public health policies in place, such as required masking, testing and with vaccinations encouraged,” according to Newsom’s issued announcement.
“Large-scale indoor events, such as conventions, will be allowed to occur with testing or vaccination verification requirements,” it said.
The announcement comes as California has administered more than 20 million vaccines against COVID-19 and hospitalizations have declined significantly.
While supply of the vaccine has remained a concern and slowed the pace of vaccination efforts in California and across the nation, Newsom said supply is expected to increase weekly.
“We are looking 10 weeks out,” Newsom said. “We believe everybody that would want the vaccine will have had the opportunity to not only receive a vaccine but will have had that second dose of the vaccine.”
California has a population of nearly 40 million people. Those ages 16 and over are allowed under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s emergency approval to get the vaccine. The state has been phasing in groups who can make appointments and start getting vaccinated.
Last week, people 50 and over were allowed to start getting the vaccine. The previous eligibility cutoff was 65 and older. Those 16 and over with underlying health conditions or disabilities and those who work in certain professions have also been allowed to be vaccinated.
Beginning April 15, people 16 and over can start to be vaccinated, although appointments may be hard to come by for weeks due to the continued supply constraints across the nation.
The state received about 1.8 million doses two weeks ago, 2.1 million last week and this week 2.4 million. “I anticipate those numbers to continue to go up,” Newsom said.
Mayor London Breed, who joined Newsom at the site, wrote on Twitter that “the end of this pandemic is getting closer” and San Francisco was vaccinating nearly 12,000 people daily.
Fifty percent of San Francisco residents ages 16 and over, or 387,623, have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 30 percent are fully vaccinated, according to city data. The City is averaging about 38 new cases of COVID daily.
As the trends are improving, the state continues to move counties into less restrictive tiers, allowing them to open up more businesses and resume activities. Some counties have experienced an increase in cases since opening more, including San Francisco, which has seen a 20% increase in its case rate. But the state is overall seeing a decrease and its positivity rate is at a low of 1.6 percent.
There are also concerns about how more contagious variants of the virus could affect trends.
“This is really a race, these vaccines, against the variants, against the mutations,” Newsom said. “It is incumbent upon all of us not to announce mission accomplished, not to put down our guard but to continue that vigilance that got us where we are today.”