California schools and businesses should be able to fully reopen at their pre-pandemic capacities starting June 15, regardless of which of the state’s color-coded tiers are currently in place in their county, officials said Tuesday, April 6.
Everyone is still encouraged to get vaccinated against COVID-19, and the state’s mask mandate will remain in place. State health officials announced the news in a media briefing Tuesday morning, citing “consistently low and improving metrics” such as the number of new COVID-19 cases and people hospitalized with the disease, and recent vaccination milestones.
Statewide, the average daily rate of COVID-19 cases has plunged sharply since a winter spike hit its peak around the first week of January, from more than 112 cases per 100,000 residents then to just 5 per 100,000 as of Monday, state data shows. The number of people hospitalized with the disease also has dropped significantly since abut mid-January.
More than 20 million doses of vaccine have been administered, with more than 7.5 million of the state’s nearly 40 million residents fully vaccinated and almost 6 million more having received one of two needed doses.
State officials have previously hinted at a “green tier,” but they explained Tuesday the new category coming in June signals the end of the current “blueprint for a safer economy” that uses a four-tier, color-coded system with thresholds to meet for advancing through the increasingly less-restrictive tiers.
If concerns arise – such as rapid spread of new virus variants or significant hopsitalizations among already vaccinated people – the state could put the brakes on reopening, state Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said in the briefing.
But if current progress continues, the shift planned for June 15 “really means that everyday activities will be allowed and businesses can open with common-sense risk reduction measures,” Ghaly said.
“We can go to movies, to the beach and see family.”
The state’s announcement will mean theaters and performing arts groups, sporting events and other such organizations and venues can begin to plan for reopening with few restrictions. But the immediate future of very large gatherings is still a bit hazy.
Ghaly said for now, events with more than 5,000 people are prohibited unless organizers get proof that everyone in attendance has been vaccinated or has a recent negative COVID-19 test.
Full capacity at convention centers or events such as the Coachella music festival “won’t be recognized without some requirement for testing or vaccines,” Ghaly said.
He added, “We don’t yet have the path for those to occur at the same size and scope that they have traditionally,” but state health officials continue to work with industry representatives.
Also announced Tuesday is Riverside and San Bernardino counties will follow Los Angeles and Orange counties into the more relaxed orange tier this week, according to state Department of Public Health data released Tuesday, allowing more businesses and public places in the Inland Empire to reopen indoors and increase customer capacities.
State officials on Tuesday announced that because California surpassed another goal of administering 4 million vaccine doses in 400 ZIP codes that have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus, the case rate thresholds to enter both the orange and yellow tiers have moved higher, making both easier-going tiers easier for counties to enter.
That also means counties are less likely to slip back into tougher tiers if their case rates worsen between now and mid-June, when state leaders are expected to scrap the color-coded blueprint.
Staff Writer Ian Wheeler contributed to this report.