Heavily populated counties are now allowing 50 percent capacity.
California, one of the most restrictive states since the pandemic began, will fully open its economy on June 15 depending on certain criteria.
The state will move forward if there’s enough vaccine for anyone 16 years and older, and if hospitalization rates are stable and low. According to California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office, the Golden State has administered more than 20 million vaccine doses, including four million in the hardest-hit communities. California recently opened vaccines to anyone over 50. On April 15, any adult will be eligible.
At the same time, hospitalizations are continuing to decline. Newsom said California’s seven-day positivity rate is 1.6 percent.
“With more than 20 million vaccines administered across the state, it is time to turn the page on our tier system and begin looking to fully reopen California’s economy,” Newsom said in a statement. “We can now begin planning for our lives post-pandemic. We will need 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 conditions are met on June 15, it would mean the end of California’s tiered system. Last year, the state released a color-coded plan that grouped counties based on the severity of their COVID outbreaks. Purple, which is the highest tier, means COVID is widespread and restaurants can only offer outdoor dining and off-premises; red means substantial, and restaurants are allowed 25 percent; orange (moderate levels) and yellow (minimal levels) allow 50 percent.
Masks will still be mandated, however.
“California has made incredible progress controlling the spread of COVID-19 by staying home, masking, and getting vaccines out quickly to Californians in every corner of the state, including in those communities hardest hit by this pandemic,” Dr. Mark Ghaly, California Health and Human Services Secretary, said in a statement. “In order to take the next step, we must continue to do our part to keep this momentum moving in the right direction, and that means continuing to wear a mask and ensuring everyone who is eligible gets the vaccine.”
Since March 2020, California has instituted multiple stay-at-home orders, and restaurants, especially in populated regions like Los Angeles and the Bay Area, have moved in and out of restrictions, whether it’s outdoor only, an off-premises only model, or low capacity limits.
Most recently, California instituted a regional stay-at-home order at the beginning of December that limited restaurants to off-premises. The mandate remained in effect until late January. Since that order, there has been notable progress. Los Angeles County recently entered the orange tier, which means restaurants will be allowed to serve at 50 percent. San Francisco and Santa Clara counties moved to 50 percent in late March.
California will continue to monitor hospitalization rates and vaccine access and vaccine efficacy against variants. It will have the option of revisiting the target of June 15, if necessary.