California's top health official says the state will no longer require social distancing and will allow full capacity for businesses when the state reopens on June 15. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

California to drop social distancing requirements in June

The state of nearly 40 million people has administered nearly 35.5 million vaccine doses

California no longer will require social distancing and will allow full capacity for businesses when the state reopens on June 15, the state’s top health official said Friday.

“We’re at a place with this pandemic where those requirements of the past are no longer needed for the foreseeable future,” Secretary of California Health and Human Services Dr. Mark Ghaly said.

He said dramatically lower virus cases and increasing vaccinations mean it’s safe for California to remove nearly all restrictions next month. The state of nearly 40 million people has administered nearly 35.5 million vaccine doses, he said, and more than three-quarters of residents over 65 have received at least one dose.

As one result, the state in mid-June will end its color-coded four-tier system that restricts activities based on each county’s virus prevalence.

Limits on how many people can be inside businesses at any one time will disappear, he said, and “there will no longer be (physical distancing) restrictions for attendees, customers and guests in business sectors.”

That won’t mean an abrupt end to wearing masks, he said, but the state will adjust its guidelines to correspond to national guidelines.

Officials already announced this week that they would wait until mid-June to follow the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new mask guidelines that say it’s safe for fully vaccinated people to skip face coverings and social distancing in virtually all situations. The federal guidelines state that everyone should still wear masks in crowded indoor locations such as airplanes, buses, hospitals and prisons.

California’s workforce regulators are separately developing safety rules that will continue to apply to employers, Ghaly said.

“I can’t emphasize enough how the vaccine has allowed us to get to a place where we can safely do the things that we loved to do before the pandemic,” said Los Angeles County health director Barbara Ferrer. The state’s lingering deaths, she said, “are almost all among people not fully vaccinated. This is preventable.”

The state will still require vaccine verification or negative test results within 72 hours for indoor events with more than 5,000 attendees.

State officials will also recommend that organizers of outdoor events with more than 10,000 people require attendees to provide verification that they have been vaccinated or have tested negative for the coronavirus. Those who can’t or don’t provide the verification should be encouraged by organizers to wear masks, Ghaly said.

“I’m very confident in their decisions and very confident this is the right move,” said Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease expert at the University of California, San Francisco.

Gandhi said there is plenty of evidence that vaccines are effective and California has done a good job of distributing doses.

State officials do not anticipate that they will create or require a vaccination “passport” or other formal verification, Ghaly said.

The more than three weeks of lead time before the changes go into effect “will provide ample time for our businesses, organizations and residents to prepare for these changes,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said.

California also plans to follow federal CDC guidelines on travel, meaning it will not be discouraged except in places where visiting is not advised.

“We have weathered the storm, and I am hopeful that this finally signals our return to normalcy,” Barger said.

California was the first state to issue a statewide shutdown as the virus emerged in March 2020 and it was the nation’s epicenter for the disease at the start of 2021. More than 61,000 people have died from the virus in California, the most in any state in the nation.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, has said for weeks that the state expected to generally lift most business and social restrictions by June 15.

“I think our shared objective has always been to get the economy open as quickly as we can by safely doing so,” said Dee Dee Myers, director of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development. Newsom faces a recall election this fall driven in large part by those frustrated with his restrictions during the pandemic.

“Restrictions around eating and drinking, open bars, buffets, things like that will all go away,” she said. People can now also plan with certainty for weddings, conventions and large sporting events, “a really important milestone” as officials try to reinvigorate the economy.

In recent days, newly reported infections in California have fallen below 1,000 and there are currently just over 1,300 people hospitalized with the virus. The state’s current positivity rate is just 1%.

Lifting restrictions will inevitably result in some increased transmissions, but the health care system should be able to handle them and local officials can still impose additional limits if there are outbreaks, Ghaly said. Health officials will continue tracking whether virus mutations start breaking through vaccinations, which he said could mean renewed health measures.

“We’re going to be watching that very closely,” he said. “But I think we are in a place statewide where we have a significant number of people vaccinated and protected.″

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Just Posted

An example of the forest land in the Port Renfrew and Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island is shown on May 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne
Old-growth logging opponents launch hunger strike as arrests continue at Fairy Creek

Zain Haq says the hunger strikers will gather today at Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver

An example of the forest land in the Port Renfrew and Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island is shown on May 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne
Old-growth logging opponents launch hunger strike as arrests continue at Fairy Creek

Zain Haq says the hunger strikers will gather today at Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver

Grade 12 students Sophia Kazakoff and Catherine Yuan accept QMS’s Stigma Free Designation award from Stigma-Free Society president, Andrea Paquette. (Submitted)
Duncan’s QMS earns ‘Stigma-Free’ designation

“No school in the province has accomplished what QMS did in such a short period of time”

“About a year after it was last used for a bottle drive, Lake Cowichan’s derelict Scout and Guide Hall came down Monday, June 6. Girl Guides have since moved into different churches and halls around the area. Town council has yet to decide what will be done with the now vacant town-owned site.” (Tyler Clarke/Lake Cowichan Gazette, June 8, 2011)
Flashback: A.B. Greenwell, Lady of the Lake, good and bad news for the Lake News

What was making headlines this week around Cowichan Lake in years gone by

Conner Gilkin, 5, shows of some of his newfound loot to buddy Jax Dul, 7, during the Lake Cowichan treasure hunt on Saturday, June 5. (Kevin Rothbauer/Gazette)
Weekly hunt has Lake Cowichan digging for treasure

Gold? Silver? Candy? Andrew Braye has stashed away a range of prizes for eager treasure hunters

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

Most Read