California will no longer need social distancing and will allow full capacity for businesses when the state reopens on June 15, the state’s top health official said on Friday.
“We are at a place with this pandemic where these past demands are no longer needed for the foreseeable future,” California Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mark Ghaly said.
He said dramatically reduced virus cases and increased vaccinations meant it was safe for the state to remove almost all restrictions next month. The state of nearly 40 million people has administered nearly 35.5 million doses of the vaccine, he said, and more than three-quarters of residents over 65 have received at least one dose.
“Vaccines are widely available and we are proud of where we are at,” Ghaly said.
“Something very important happens on June 15 in California,” when the state ends its color-coded four-level system that restricts activities based on the prevalence of the virus in each county, he said. declared.
Limits on the number of people who can be inside businesses at any one time, “which has been a hallmark” of the security plan, will disappear, he said. “There will be no more (physical distance) restrictions for attendees, customers and guests in commercial areas,” Ghaly said.
That won’t mean an abrupt end to wearing masks, he said, but it will mean that the state will adapt its guidelines to match national guidelines.
Officials have already announced this week that they will wait until mid-June to follow the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new mask guidelines that it is safe for fully vaccinated people. do not cover your face and distance yourself in virtually all situations. Federal guidelines state that everyone should always wear masks in crowded indoor places such as airplanes, buses, hospitals and prisons.
California labor regulators are separately developing safety rules that will continue to apply to employers, Ghaly said.
The state will still require a vaccine check or negative test results within 72 hours for indoor events with more than 5,000 attendees. But Ghaly said verification can be done “by self-attestation” with details to come from health officials on how this process will work.
State officials will also recommend organizers of outdoor events with more than 10,000 people to require attendees to provide verification that they have been vaccinated or have tested negative for the coronavirus. Those who cannot or do not provide verification should be encouraged by organizers to wear masks, Ghaly said.
State officials do not anticipate that they will create or require a vaccination “passport” or other formal verification, he said. They will advise businesses and others that require verification to do so “in a non-discriminatory manner.”
The more than three week delay before the changes take effect “will give our businesses, organizations and residents plenty of time to prepare for these changes,” said Kathryn Barger, Los Angeles County Supervisor.
Ghaly said California also plans to follow the CDC’s federal guidelines on domestic and overseas travel.
This means that travel will not be discouraged except in cases of countries where the visit is not advised. Voluntary quarantines for those returned to California will also be removed.
“We weathered the storm and hopefully it signals our return to normal at last,” said Barger.
California was the first state to conduct a statewide shutdown when the virus emerged in March 2020 and it was the epicenter of the disease in early 2021. More than 61,000 people have died from the disease. virus in California, most in all states of the nation.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, said for weeks the state expected to generally lift most trade and social restrictions by June 15.
“I think our common goal has always been to open up the economy as quickly as possible while doing so safely,” said Dee Dee Myers, director of the Governor’s Office for Business and Economic Development. Newsom faces a recall election this fall, largely driven by those frustrated by its restrictions during the pandemic.
“The restrictions on food and drink, open bars, buffets, things like that will go away,” she said. People can now also plan for weddings, conventions and major sporting events with certainty, “so this was a very important step as we move forward and try to speed up the reopening and speed up economic activity.”
In recent days, newly reported infections in California have fallen below 1,000 and there are currently just over 1,300 people hospitalized with the virus. The current positivity rate for the condition is only 1%.
“We haven’t enjoyed this level since the very first months and weeks of the pandemic,” Ghaly said.
Lifting the restrictions will inevitably lead to an increase in transmissions, but the health system should be able to handle them and local authorities can still impose additional limits in the event of an outbreak, he said. Health officials will continue to monitor if viral mutations start to break through during vaccinations, which he says could mean new health measures.
“We will be watching this very closely,” he said. “But I think we are in a country where we have a significant number of vaccinated and protected people.”
This story has been corrected to say that more than 61,000 people have died from the coronavirus in California, not nearly 63,000.