original article published June 8, 2021 by the Tri-City Voice
On June 15, the State of California will be lifting nearly all public health restrictions in a major step towards returning to pre-COVID times. No longer will counties be held to the color-coded tier system of the Blueprint for a Safer Economy, which Governor Newsom first unveiled in August, 2020. This is assuming there continues to be a sufficient vaccine supply and hospitalizations remain stable and low.
California is one of the last states to officially “reopen” as the nation continues to see a dramatic drop in COVID-19 cases and deaths. As of June 1, according to Johns Hopkins University, the 7-day positivity rate for California was 0.7%, an all-time low. Positivity rate is the percentage of all COVID tests performed that are positive for the virus. And with over half the population of the nation, and the state, vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the outlook appears hopeful.
Beginning June 15, all capacity limits and social distancing requirements will be removed. This means restaurants, bars, grocery stores, churches, movie theaters, concert venues, etc. can all operate as they did before the pandemic.
The exception will be for “mega events”. For outdoor live events of 10,000 people or more, the state is recommending that proof of vaccination or a negative test result be shown in order to enter without a mask. Otherwise, you must wear a mask. For indoor venues of 5,000 or more, you must show proof of vaccination/negative test result or you will not be allowed in. Currently, California is the only state in the nation (apart from Hawaii) where masks are required indoors for all, regardless of vaccination status (with a few exceptions).
So what does all of this mean for folks in Alameda County? While there has been no official press release as of this writing, according to the Alameda County website: “Alameda County is fully aligned with the California State Reopening Plan, California State Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People, and California State Mask Guidance.” That means the county will follow the state’s lead in following CDC mask guidance come June 15.
And that means that fully vaccinated people will be able to shout and cheer without having to wear a mask. They will also be able to buy groceries, eat a meal, have a drink, work out, pray, see a movie, get a massage, ride a bike, go to a concert, etc. etc. – all sans mask. The few exceptions will be when visiting hospitals, prisons, and homeless shelters, and during travel (including air travel and mass transit). Of course if you haven’t had the vaccine yet, or are just partially vaccinated, you still need to wear a mask in public.
Questions still remain regarding enforcement of these rules. How will businesses know who is vaccinated and who isn’t? Some may require proof of vaccination. Some businesses may err on the side of caution and still operate with health restrictions in place, whether that’s keeping tables separated or requiring face masks or some of each. The main change come June 15 will be that each business will be responsible for upholding and enforcing its own health guidelines, provided they don’t contradict with the CDC.
Several national chains – including Target, Costco and Trader Joe’s – have said they won’t require vaccinated customers to wear masks in states that drop mandates. And California employers will still be subject to guidelines set forth by California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (CalOSHA), specifically under the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), which mainly addresses workplace restrictions for those exhibiting signs of COVID-19.
This coming fall will see the return of thousands of children to the public school system as in person teaching resumes. And more recommendations by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) may be coming for families with young children who can’t be vaccinated yet. Pfizer released a statement on its website stating; “If safety and immunogenicity is confirmed, and pending agreement with and endorsement from regulators, we hope to receive authorization for vaccination of these younger kids by early 2022.”
In a recent news conference, Secretary of the California Health and Human Services Dr. Mark Ghaly was asked about what might trigger the state to potentially lock back down. He said the state would be keeping a close eye on case numbers and COVID-19 variants, but didn’t get into what a worst case scenario might look like.
While health and government experts continue to evaluate and assess the data and relax restrictions, it would appear that it now comes down to us as individuals. If everyone gets vaccinated and remains cautious, then perhaps there is hope. Only time will tell.