A return to normalcy reminiscent of before the COVID-19 pandemic is on the horizon as Gov. Gavin Newsom announced California’s plan to reopen economically statewide by June 15.
In a press conference outside a vaccination site in San Francisco, Newsom says California plans to discontinue the color-coded tier system every county currently abides by. The system regulates openings and closures within the counties.
Moving beyond the Blueprint for a Safer Economy means that businesses like restaurants, gyms, bars and some venues can open to full capacity, regardless of the tier a county is in.
Newsom says that schools K-12 and higher learning institutions will not be restricted from holding in-person classes if they choose to do so. If a school decides not to have in-person classes, the state will not require them to re-open.
“We anticipate there’ll be no barrier to getting all of our kids safely back, not just K through 12, but community colleges including institutions of higher learning,” Newsom said. “We will expect our kids safely back in person.”
However, a plan to “fully reopen” is contingent on California residents continuing to get vaccinated and the number of hospitalizations remaining stable.
“[By] continuing to wear face coverings, continuing to access vaccines and continuing to administer vaccines in an equitable framework, if we keep the pace, we are moving beyond the blueprint,” Newsom said.
The announcement was made a little over a year after California shut down its economy and moved into the tier system due to the pandemic’s effects.
As of Tuesday, Newsom says that the state has exceeded the 20 million administered vaccination threshold, as well as the 4 million mark for vaccinations of lower-income communities.
“We are proud to have passed two significant milestones. Twenty million administered doses in California, and four million administered doses, under the more important equity metric,” Newsom said.
Newsom says the state anticipates over 30 million people will have been vaccinated by at least one dose by the end of May and expects additional doses coming for the federal government through the end of the month.
The determination of a June 15 reopening goal is based on statewide vaccine eligibility expansion, which will expand to all Californians ages 16 and older on April 15.
Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said that the state wants to provide ample time for newly eligible residents to receive the vaccine doses before a statewide reopening.
The June 15 target date is not set in stone and could be revised if a spike in cases occurs. Until then, the state will continue to monitor hospitalizations, COVID-19 variants and vaccine accessibility.
“We’re going to keep a close eye, not just on that hospitalization rate and number, but actually understanding who’s in the hospital,” Ghaly said. “And whether those who are vaccinated are the ones who are hospitalized.”
When a reopening does occur, “common sense” health measures, including continuing mask mandates. For some businesses and industries, testing and vaccination requirements will remain.
Newsom stressed that although COVID-19 positivity cases, death rates and hospitalizations are on a downward trend, Californians should continue to stay vigilant in fighting against the coronavirus.
“It is incumbent upon all of us not to announce mission accomplished. Not to put down our guard, but to continue that vigilance,” Newsom said. “We are seeing a bright light at the end of the tunnel.”