SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — California plans to end nearly all COVID-19 restrictions on businesses beginning June 15 if the state receives enough vaccines and hospitalization rates remain stable and low.
The move would end the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, which created a color-coded tier system that limited the capacity at which businesses could operate. It would also end county-specific requirements based on case rates.
Mask mandates will remain in place indefinitely and restrictions on some large, indoor convention halls will remain in place through October 1. Other businesses will also be asked to use "common-sense risk reduction measures."
Health officials selected June 15 because it is exactly eight weeks from when the vaccine will be available to all Californians 16 and older. This allows two weeks for first appointments, up to four weeks for second doses and two additional weeks for the antibodies to take full effect.
The governor expects 30 million Californians will have received at least one dose by the end of the month out of 32 million Californians 16 and older who are eligible.
Contact tracing and testing will continue as the state works to identify any new variants. There is a potential the date could be pushed back if necessary, although Secretary of Health and Human Services Mark Ghaly said there is no specific hospitalization number that would trigger a delay.
The decision was announced as Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the state had met its goal to administered four million doses in the state's hardest-hit communities, just 23 days after delivering the first two million doses to those neighborhoods.
“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. 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,” Newsom said.
WATCH: Governor Gavin Newsom provides an update Tuesday (4/6) on the state’s plan to fully and safely reopen on June 15
The tier system will remain in place until June 15. Currently, counties can only open to the yellow tier, which allows many businesses to operate at 50% capacity. There was never a tier that allowed full operations.
“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. 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,” Ghaly said.
All sectors listed in the current Blueprint for a Safer Economy grid may return to usual operations in compliance with Cal/OSHA requirements and with common-sense public health policies in place, such as required masking, testing and with vaccinations encouraged. Large-scale indoor events, such as conventions, will be allowed to occur with testing or vaccination verification requirements.
The state said, in partnership with local government, health care providers and community-based organizations, will continue its extensive efforts to get eligible Californians vaccinated, including its support of expanded hours and access through community clinics and providers, public education campaign, and support for community-based strategies such as canvassing.
On March 4, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that the state had set aside 40% of vaccine doses for the hardest-hit communities and established an equity metric to increase vaccinations in those communities. Doing so recognizes that the pandemic did not affect California communities equally. Forty percent of COVID cases and deaths have occurred in the lowest quartile of the Healthy Places Index (HPI), which provides overall scores and data that predict life expectancy and compares community conditions that shape health across the state.
The governor said California continues to plan for the vaccination of Californians under 16 years of age, protection against new variants and continued tracking and containment of spread. The state stands ready to mobilize additional resources if there is an increase in cases.
San Diego County will officially be moving into the orange tier in California's Reopening Plan. The looser restrictions will take effect Wednesday. San Diego needs a case rate below 2.0 for three consecutive weeks to move to the yellow tier.
Currently, the county’s adjusted case rate sits at 5.8 per 100,000, under the current guideline we would need to be under four for two weeks to move down. However, once the state hit 4 million vaccine doses in low-income areas, the orange tier threshold jumped up to 5.9 per 100,000. Last week the county logged a 4.9 adjusted case rate.