Governor Gavin Newsom said it will happen as long as vaccine supply is sufficient and the shots continue to prove strong enough to reduce severe disease.
(CN) — After what will be 15 months of an often near-total economic shutdown, California will fully reopen its economy — the largest in the nation and the fifth largest in the world — on June 15 provided key benchmarks are met.
“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,” Governor Gavin Newsom said. “We can now begin planning for our lives post-pandemic.”
The statements issued by the Newsom administration represent the clearest indication to date that California is on the precipice of moving beyond the pandemic and seeking to restore levels of normalcy.
Impediments and caveats remain.
The largest potential hitch to a full reopening are variants and mutations and whether the current vaccines are strong enough to protect against them.
“We will take a look at who is being hospitalized while ensuring vaccines are effective against severe disease,” state secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said.
The early indications are that the vaccines are overwhelmingly effective against preventing severe disease and death, and are equally robust against the numerous variants that have cropped up. However, Ghaly said the state wants to be cautious and enjoy the benefits of months of study before committing to retiring its blueprint consisting of the various tiers that dictate which businesses can be open and at what capacity.
Newsom said the state continues to monitor hospitalizations internationally and in different regions of the nation, adding there is no evidence of vaccinated patients being hospitalized for severe disease at this point.
Ghaly also said the state will monitor who is hospitalized rather than rates of hospitalizations. One vaccinated patient admitted to an emergency room is of greater concern to officials than 10 unvaccinated Covid patients.
The state also wants to wait until the majority of Californians have at least been presented with the option of getting the vaccine.
“In health care, we look at how quickly a patient can get an appointment for a service,” Ghaly said when discussing the metrics in analyzing vaccine supply. “If Californians can get a vaccine within two weeks, that means there is enough supply that people can get vaccinated in a pretty timely way.”
The state will continue to conduct contract tracing and monitor disease outbreaks in specific communitis. Mask mandates may be in place past June 15 as well, Newsom said Tuesday.
“There are no short-term goals related to lifting the mask mandate,” Newsom said. “This disease is as deadly as it’s ever been and we are committed to extinguishing it.”
Ghaly said Californians need to continue to wear masks and abide by social distancing requirements.
“We still see masking as one of the key protective features,” Ghaly said. “There is currently no timeline for ending the mask requirement.”
California is also not moving forward with vaccine passport requirements, although Ghaly did say some businesses may mandate proof of vaccination to participate in their services.
“Businesses are exploring how they can ensure people are vaccinated and how they can allow people to enjoy the privileges of being vaccinated,” Ghaly said.
Cruise lines have already discussed getting underway by allowing only those with proof of vaccination aboard, for instance.
Newsom also stated June 15 will be the deadline for all educational institutions, including K-12 public schools, to offer in-person instruction.
“At that point, there will be no barrier to getting all of our kids back safely for in-person instruction,” the governor said. “That includes community colleges and institutions of higher learning.”