California aims to fully reopen the economy on June 15

California aims to fully reopen its economy on June 15, the clearest end date for restrictions that have beset businesses and disrupted daily life during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The date is not set in stone. And officials emphasize that getting to the point where California can reopen widely for the first time in more than a year will depend on two factors: a sufficient vaccine supply to inoculate all those who are eligible and stable, and a low number of people hospitalized with the illness. .

June 15 will also not bring a full return to life before the pandemic. In particular, the California masks mandate will continue for the foreseeable future.

But officials expressed confidence that the state, through continuous improvement in its coronavirus metrics and constant vaccine rollouts, is now in a position to begin actively planning for what will come after COVID-19.

“With more than 20 million vaccines administered statewide, it is time to turn the page in our tiering system and begin to seek a full reopening of the California economy,” Governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement Tuesday. “Now we can start planning our lives after the pandemic. We will have to remain vigilant and continue the practices that got us here: wearing masks and getting vaccinated, but the light at the end of this tunnel has never been brighter. “

If all goes according to plan, June 15 will see the official end of California’s current reopening roadmap, which ranks counties into one of four color-coded tiers based on three metrics: coronavirus case rates, adjusted. according to the number of tests carried out; the rate of positive test results; and a health equity metric designed to ensure that the positive test rate in the poorest communities is not significantly higher than the county’s overall figure.

“The entire state will go through this phase as a whole. This will not be county by county, ”said Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s secretary of health and human services, in a conference call with reporters.

In a statement, officials said sectors included in the state’s reopening plan will be allowed to “return to normal operations in accordance with Cal / OSHA requirements and current common sense public health policies, such as required masking, testing and vaccinations encouraged. Large-scale indoor events will be allowed to occur, such as conventions, with vaccination proof or verification requirements. “

Ghaly emphasized that, “If we see a worrying increase in our hospitalizations, we will take the necessary precautions. But right now, we are hopeful of what we are seeing as we continue to build on the 20 million vaccines that have already been administered. “

A successful state reopening in June represents a huge political advantage for the governor, who faces a likely recall election in the fall.

Newsom’s chances of surviving a recall could be greater if Californians had resumed some pre-COVID-19 way of life when they cast their votes. Mass vaccinations and the return of in-person education are critical to that sense of normalcy.

Newsom was the nation’s first governor to issue a stay-at-home order in the early days of the pandemic last year, an action widely seen as the right call to protect California’s fragile healthcare system.

The governor has not received the same praise for his handling of the reopens.

Health experts have said that Newsom removed the restrictions too quickly and did not reinstate them quickly enough as the number of cases increased, adding to COVID-19 surges in the summer and winter. Health and Human Services Secretary Ghaly, one of the state’s top health officials, has said he would have slowed the pace of change last summer if he could do it all over again.

The lifting of the restrictions and the launch of a radical reopening create news risks for Newsom. If the virus resurfaces or unexpected problems arise, the governor’s ever-changing rule lash might be fresher on the minds of voters, who can blame it at the polls.

Political experts say the more Californians think about the pandemic in the past tense, the more likely Newsom will keep his seat.

The announcement of the planned reopening date came on the same day that California reached its goal of delivering 4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to its most vulnerable communities, a milestone not just in the ongoing fight to distribute the precious vaccines. more equitably, but in the push to further reopen the state’s economy even before June 15.

Reaching the goal means the state will rewrite the reopening roadmap to implement new criteria that will allow counties to more quickly ease some of the restrictions on businesses and public spaces.

The changes will, in effect, apply an orange coating to the Golden State.

The levels outlined in California’s current reopening strategy range from purple, in which coronavirus transmission is considered widespread, and indoor operations are severely limited or suspended in a wide range of business sectors; to red, with fewer restrictions; to orange, with even less; and finally, yellow, in which most businesses can open indoors with modifications.

Before Tuesday, counties had to register fewer than 4.0 new cases per day for every 100,000 people to move to the orange level. With the 4 million dose target now reached, the requirement has been lowered to less than 6.0.

Going to the orange level has important economic implications.

Counties may allow bars to reopen outdoors with some modifications, and bars are not required to serve food either.

Amusement parks can reopen up to 25% of their capacity, and fan attendance is allowed at 33% of their capacity for outdoor sports and live performances.

Capacity restrictions can also be removed in stores, although social distancing and other security modifications still apply; places of worship, museums, zoos and aquariums can increase their indoor capacity from 25% to 50%; restaurants and cinemas can increase interior capacity to 50% or 200 people from 25% or 100 people (whichever is less); and indoor gyms and yoga studios can increase capacity by 10% to 25%.

Bowling alleys can be reopened with modifications to 25% of their capacity. Card rooms and satellite gambling sites can also be reopened indoors at 25% capacity.

Offices in nonessential industries may reopen, though the state says workers have yet to be encouraged to work remotely.

The goal set by the state to first administer 2 million, then 4 million doses in target communities – those in the lowest quartile of a socioeconomic measurement tool called the California Healthy Places Index – was just one aspect of a broader effort aimed at ensuring equity. access to COVID-19 vaccines.

California has earmarked 40% of its COVID-19 vaccine supply for residents in those underserved areas over the past month, an allocation that state officials said would not only help address inequalities in the launch of the inoculation, but also It would also ensure that vaccines are available for the majority of pandemic risk.

To date, providers across California have distributed 20.3 million total doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and 34.2% of residents have received at least one injection, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. US Disease Prevention

Approximately 18.1% of Californians are fully vaccinated at this time, which means they have received either the Johnson & Johnson single shot or both required doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.

Nationally, 32.4% of Americans have received at least one dose and 18.8% are fully vaccinated, CDC data shows.

During the early stages of the vaccine launch, California restricted access to vaccines to those considered to be at the highest risk of coronavirus infection, either because of their age, occupation or underlying health conditions.

That will change starting April 15, when anyone 16 and older will be able to book appointments.

The state had expanded vaccine eligibility last week to include everyone age 50 and older.

President Biden had initially said that states should make all adults eligible for COVID-19 vaccines by May 1. But it is expected to announce a more aggressive schedule on Tuesday, setting a new deadline for April 19.

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