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

Tyler O’Neill has a shot at making the NL all-star team. (Taka Yanagimoto/St. Louis Cardinals)
Executive director of the Friends In Need Food Bank Mary Robson with Darrell Jones, president of Save-On-Foods. (The News files)
Save-On-Foods 4th annual campaign for Maple Ridge food bank starts Thursday, June 17

50 per cent of net proceeds from Western Family brand to be donated

A white bicycle marks the intersection where Dillan Fernando was killed in Pitt Meadows on May 15. (Special to The News)
Family of cyclist killed in Pitt Meadows raising money for Sri Lankan tech centre in his honour

Computer hub would give underprivileged children access to equipment they can not afford

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air traffic at Pitt Meadows Airport returning

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Emiko Nakai will attend Warner Pacific University in Portland, Oregon next year. (Special to The News)
Three SRT Titans earn scholarships

Maple Ridge’s Emiko Nagai, Lucas Hutchinson, and Cade Armour will take talents to college level

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
VIDEO: Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The Abbotsford International Airshow is back for 2021 with the ‘SkyDrive’ concept.
Abbotsford International Airshow returns for 2021 with ‘SkyDrive’

New format features a drive-in movie type experience, show set for Aug. 6 to 8

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens as Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents the province’s latest budget, April 20, 2021. The budget projects $19 billion in deficits over three years. (Hansard TV)
B.C. government budget balloons, beyond COVID-19 response

Provincial payroll up 104,000 positions, $10 billion since 2017

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

Ocean debris is shown on Long Beach in Tofino, B.C. on April, 18, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Shoreline cleanup finds COVID-related trash increased during height of the pandemic

Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup reports litter from single-use food packaging nearly doubled

Doctor David Vallejo and his fiancee Doctor Mavelin Bonilla hold photos of themselves working, as they kiss at their home in Quito, Ecuador, Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Doctor Vallejo and Doctor Bonilla suspended their wedding in order to tend to COVID-19 patients and in the process Vallejo got sick himself with the disease, ending up in an ICU for several days. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
Love, sacrifice and surviving COVID-19: one couple’s story

COVID hits Ecuadorian doctors who delayed wedding to treat sick

Cover of the 32-page Surrey First Peoples Guide for Newcomers, created and compiled by Jeska Slater.
New ‘Surrey First Peoples Guide for Newcomers’ seeks to ‘uplift and amplify’ voices

32-page guide launched Tuesday by Surrey Local Immigration Partnership (LIP)

West Coast Duty Free president Gary Holowaychuk stands next to empty shelves inside his store on Tuesday (June 15). (Aaron Hinks photo)
Revenue down 97% at Surrey duty free as owner waits for U.S. border to reopen

Products approaching best before dates had to be donated, others destroyed

Most Read