Governor Gavin Newsom gave a widely quoted interview with a Los Angeles television station on Tuesday in which he said that California won't have a broad mask mandate after June 15 in the majority of public settings. But that doesn't mean the Bay Area will roll with that right away — and we likely won't.
Newsom's statement is being interpreted to mean that Californians won't need masks anymore after this magical moment of June 15, which is now five weeks away. But is that really true? And will California cities that aren't dominated by Republicans — namely San Francisco and Los Angeles — and the businesses in them actually go along with this when COVID case counts are not likely to hit zero?
What Newsom actually said when asked if the mask mandate will still exist after June 15:
"Only in those settings that are indoor, only in those massively large settings where people from around the world, not just around the country, are convening and where people are mixing in real dense spaces. Otherwise, we’ll make guidance recommendations, but... no mandates and no restrictions on businesses large and small."
NEWS: @GavinNewsom tells me CA's mask mandate will almost entirely go away on June 15th.— Elex Michaelson (@Elex_Michaelson) May 12, 2021
"Only in those massively large [indoor] settings where people from around the world are convening & people are mixing in real dense spaces. Otherwise...no mandates"
More @TheIssueIsShow pic.twitter.com/17yyyt0Unb
Much like Newsom's calculus that June 15 would be the day when pandemic restrictions would broadly be lifted across California, this latest statement can certainly be interpreted with politics in mind. As he stares down a recall election in the coming months and plenty of bad-mouthing in attack ads, Newsom wants to be able to say that California is no longer impinging on small businesses with its public health orders, now that the coronavirus is mostly in check.
The problem is that it hasn't gone away. COVID hospitalizations in California have remained stubbornly consistent across the last six weeks despite a rapid rise in the number of vaccinated adults. And there are counties across the state that could technically still be in the "Red" or "Orange" tiers with steady case counts five weeks from now, so this won't be a one-size-fits-all switchover.
Yes, concerts and large events are likely to require masks, if not also proof of vaccination, across the state. And it's more than likely that San Francisco and Los Angeles, along with most or all of the Bay Area, will maintain some restrictions on gyms, bars, and nightclubs, which infectious disease experts still contend are the most dangerous vectors for virus transmission. With a considerable percentage of state residents and travelers into the state likely to still be unvaccinated by mid-June, lifting all mask rules too soon is probably unwise.
The LGBTQ community in SF is hoping for a jubilant Pride Month with plenty of outdoor parties, but there's still not going to be a parade for the second year in a row. There are at least a couple of parties in the works, including this mostly outdoor one at 620 Jones on Saturday June 26, with more still taking shape as promoters try to game out what's going to fly with the SF Department of Public Health. Assume you'll be masked if you attend any of these!
Related: SF Officially Graduates to 'Yellow' Tier; London Breed Celebrates No More Businesses With Closed Doors