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California to drop social distancing requirements June 15

Dr. Ghaly said dramatically lower virus cases and increasing vaccinations mean it's safe for the state to move away from the tier system.

SAN DIEGO — California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said that California is on track to lift the bulk of COVID-19 regulations on June 15, including a complete removal of capacity restrictions and physical distancing requirements. 

During a Friday teleconference, he said the state will largely align with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidelines on mask-wearing, and some travel restrictions may linger involving trips to countries heavily impacted by the virus. 

"We are now at a point, given our metrics that we've been watching, California is at a place where we can begin to talk about moving beyond the blueprint," Ghaly said.

The current plan is for the state to not implement a so-called "vaccine passport" program, but some businesses may choose to require such verifications for employees and customers. 

Vaccinations or negative COVID tests will be required to attend large-scale indoor events with more than 5,000 people. 

For outdoor "mega-events" that include 10,000 or more people, the state suggests that the venue have a system in place to verify vaccinations or negative COVID tests as part of entry. 

"We are recommending that those operators have a system to verify vaccination, verify a negative test, or in the case where attendees are neither vaccinated or tested, give that person an option to come into the event but wear a mask throughout the event," Ghaly said.

According to Ghaly, moving "beyond the blueprint" on June 15 means:

  • elimination of capacity restrictions
  • elimination of physical distancing requirements for "attendees, customers and guests at businesses"
  • adherence to the CDC guidelines on mask-wearing, which currently allows vaccinated people to shed masks in most situations
  • aligning with CDC guidance on travel, meaning the state "will have a travel advisory, but it will track with the CDC."

"What we expect to see potentially is different parts of our globe that have severe outbreaks may have some restrictions and prohibitions on travelers coming into the country and we will follow those according to the CDC," Ghaly said. "But there will not be in the same way that we've had quarantines and isolation requirements for travel within the country." 

"It's what we've been waiting for, what we've been hoping for, and what in many ways San Diego County  and the state of California has been working for," said Kevin Hellman of SDS Events and the San Diego Event Coalition.

"From an event perspective, we are just encouraged that we are able to get back to work," he added. 

These new guidelines will be in effect from June 15 to October 1. State leaders said  they will assess the situation in early September to determine whether after October 1 these restrictions are still needed.

In March 2020, California became the first state to implement a statewide shutdown as COVID-19 cases increased.  More than 60,000 have died in the state since the start of the pandemic and there have been more than 3.6 million positive COVID-19 tests reported.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in April that the state's Blueprint for a Safer Economy -- the color-coded, four-tier system that dictates COVID restrictions on capacity and operations at businesses and other venues during the pandemic -- would be lifted June 15. The date was chosen to allow ample time for a large segment of the population to get vaccinated.

For more information on California's "Beyond the Blueprint" plan, click here.

WATCH: As mask mandate nears end, debate over vaccine passports heats up

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