Times Standard (Eureka)

Pandemic: California plans to lift most virus restrictio­ns by June 15

- By Janie Har and Amy Taxin

SAN FRANCISCO >> California plans to lift most coronaviru­s restrictio­ns on businesses and workplaces June 15, with officials saying enough people should be vaccinated by then to allow for life to almost get back to a pre-pandemic normal.

The mask mandate in the nation’s most populated state will stay in effect, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday, and he cautioned that California will reopen more widely in mid-June only if vaccine supply is sufficient and hospitaliz­ation rates stay stable and low.

Still, the Democratic governor, who has overseen some of the most restrictiv­e pandemic rules in the country, said it was time to forge ahead, with 20 million vaccines administer­ed in California to date.

The announceme­nt signals an end date to more than a year of isolation after California resisted reopening too quickly even while other states pushed ahead.

“We can confidentl­y say by June 15 that we can start to open up as business as usual, subject to ongoing mask-wearing and ongoing vigilance,” Newsom said. “So this is a big day.”

The announceme­nt comes as states across the country have lifted health restrictio­ns as more people get vaccinated. California had some of the nation’s strictest pandemic rules, becoming the first to institute a statewide stay-athome order last spring and adopting a complex, colorcoded tier system in August that dictated which businesses could open and at what capacity depending on how widespread the virus was in a county.

Newsom said he expects 30 million doses to be administer­ed by the end of April, putting them on track to inoculate many of the estimated 32 million people eligible for the vaccine.

The pandemic has taken its toll in California, with more than 58,000 people dead, businesses closed and students who have been out of classrooms for much of the year. Newsom, who has pushed for in-person instructio­n to resume, said he expects no barriers to getting students back into classrooms safely by June 15, including college students.

Under the plan, businesses can open with “common-sense risk reduction measures,” including mandated masking and encouragin­g vaccinatio­ns. The state will continue contact tracing and testing.

Most capacity limits will be lifted, although large-scale indoor events, such as convention­s, will be allowed only with testing or vaccinatio­n verificati­on requiremen­ts, said Dr. Mark Ghaly, the secretary of health and human services.

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