As the pace of vaccination picks up, California state officials on Tuesday announced the date they plan to fully reopen the state's economy: June 15.
Reopening by then will largely depend on two criteria: Vaccine supply must be sufficient for anyone 16 and older who wants a shot and hospitalization rates must remain low and stable. The mask mandate would remain in place, however.
"It is incumbent upon all of us not to state mission accomplished, not to put down our guard, but to continue with vigilance that got us to where we are today," Gov. Gavin Newsom said April 6 from San Francisco.
The move would eliminate the complex web of county-by-county tiers and replace it with a statewide reopening of businesses. Businesses would open up to full capacity, although individual counties can still opt to have more restrictions depending on their circumstances.
Schools would be allowed to reopen to all in-person learning; however, the school districts will maintain control.
"I want kids back in school safely, and on June 15 we anticipate there will be no barriers to getting kids back in person, not just K-12 … (also) including institutions of higher education," Newsom said.
Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state's health secretary, said he feels comfortable allowing businesses to operate at full capacity in mid-June because the state will continue to track local conditions.
"What we could see is fully occupied settings, but yet still with masks," Ghaly said Tuesday.
Until at least Oct. 1, events at large settings like convention centers will only be allowed if organizers can show that attendees are either vaccinated or are tested. There is still no plan, however, for large, multi-day events like music festivals to take place, Ghaly said.
As of Monday, the state had administered more than 20 million vaccines — more than entire countries. That includes 4 million doses in the state's hardest hit ZIP codes. This progress allows the state to move forward, and leave behind its colored blueprint that has been determining reopenings by county.
State officials chose the June 15 date because it is eight weeks after April 15, when everyone 16 and older becomes eligible for vaccinations. That gives people three weeks to find an appointment, another three weeks in between their first and second dose and two more weeks after their second dose, which allows them to acquire full protection.
"It makes sense to me," said Dr. George Rutherford, an epidemiologist at UC San Francisco. "On the one hand, vaccination is going gangbusters, I think that will give us the out, but we also have to see what happens with the variants, and if people who are vaccinated are getting infected."
Infections are skyrocketing in some other parts of the country, some linked to new variants of the virus. But California has been able to keep its positivity rate under 2% for several weeks now.
"What we're asking is for people to hunker down for another two months and when we get there, then it's Miller time," Rutherford said.
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