Governor Gavin Newsom announced during a visit to San Francisco Tuesday that he expects, if COVID infection rates hold steady and keep declining in the state, that California will be able to toss out the color-coded tier system by June 15 and all types of businesses and schools will be permitted open with "common sense risk-reduction measures" in place.
"This disease is as deadly as it's ever been," Newsom said in a press conference. "The only thing that we have done is suppress the spread because of the number of vaccines that have been administered and because of mask wearing."
As ABC 7 reports, 42% of Californians have now received a first dose of a COVID vaccine, and 23% are fully inoculated with a second shot or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine — upwards of 7,350,000 people as of today. Also, as of Tuesday, California surpassed 20 million doses administered, with over 24 million having been delivered to the state so far.
COVID variants remain a concern, and Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said that officials would continue to monitor hospitalizations — both the overall rates and who is being hospitalized. The biggest alarm bells would be from vaccinated people needing hospitalization from new COVID infections.
"The Blueprint as it’s devised now will no longer be in effect as of June 15," Ghaly said, referring to the state's Blueprint for a Safer Economy website and color-tiering system.
Both Ghaly and Newsom stressed that the mask mandate would stay in place in California, with Ghaly saying there is "no timeline for ending the mask requirement."
"We still see masking as a key protective feature,” Ghaly said.
And Newsom said masks were "the most powerful non-pharmaceutical intervention we can have."
But, interestingly, the state announced in its official test today that "Large-scale indoor events, such as conventions, will be allowed to occur [on June 15] with testing or vaccination verification requirements."
That means that the talk about capacity limits at the Chase Center will be moot by mid-June, before the first two Phish shows are set to happen in July — if all goes well between now and then and enough people actually get their vaccines.
As Deadline reports, when Ghaly was asked about indoor concerts, he said "Yes, we feel comfortable at letting those limits go to full capacity," with vaccines required. It seems that is also the case for conventions, but not necessarily for big outdoor music festivals that people travel to, like Outside Lands.
But when it comes to those, he said, "large multi-day events, for example, Coachella, we don’t yet have the path for those to occur.” The limitations on those will "likely [be] well after June 15… We’re still working with our partners."
So, that may explain why Outside Lands decided to go with Halloween weekend. The state is currently using October 1st as a benchmark when more, large-scale events may be able to operate without restriction. As of last month, the credible rumor was Coachella was no longer aiming for its October dates, and was planning to simply move the whole thing to April 2022.
Regarding the reopening of schools, Newsom said that counties could still have their own restrictions past June 15, but he hoped all schools would reopen.
"We can now begin planning for our lives post-pandemic," Newsom said. "We will need to remain vigilant, and continue the practices that got us here — wearing masks and getting vaccinated — but the light at the end of this tunnel has never been brighter."
Meanwhile, in the Bay Area, eight out of nine counties are now in the "Orange" tier — Sonoma, Napa, and Contra Costa counties were promoted on Tuesday, and now only Solano County remains in the "Red," along with neighboring counties like Sacramento and San Joaquin.
Expect to see more outdoor bars in all corners of the Bay (serving drinks without food), and restaurants starting to open up their interiors at greater capacities in the coming weeks. In San Francisco, restaurants are still operating by "Red" tier rules in terms of 25% capacity indoors, though the "Yellow" tier may soon be in our future.