The California Department of Public Health released new details Friday about what pandemic-related restrictions will look like statewide come June 15 — and the short answer is there won't be many restrictions on daily life at all.
State Health Officer Dr. Tomas Aragon issued a memo today with the subject line "Beyond the Blueprint for Industry and Business Sectors." In it he lays out the changes in public health orders set to take effect on June 15, which include the lifting of the mask mandate for most public spaces.
Also noteworthy is the fact that all capacity restrictions on businesses large and small and rules on physical distancing will be lifted in just over three weeks, which means that bars, restaurants, gyms, movie theaters, and museums can go back to packing patrons in if they so choose.
The big exception will be "mega events," defined as events with over 5,000 attendees indoors (think Chase Center, Moscone Center), and outdoor events with over 10,000 attendees (i.e. Outside Lands). The state will require these events to check attendees vaccination status or require attendees to show a pre-entry negative COVID test result.
The reasons, as Aragon lays out, are that, "Participants and attendees are spending extensive periods of time physically close to large numbers of people they don't usually interact with," and these events "draw from beyond the nearby community and will often draw attendees and participants from other states and countries who may be infected with more infectious COVID variants." Also, there is a higher chance of exchanging respiratory particles with strangers in close quarters, and contact tracing after such events will be difficult.
Further, the state is recommending but not requiring that these events do some plugging for vaccines, telling attendees to get vaccinated; convey the risks of attending large events to those attending; and encourage everyone there to sign up for CA Notify, which will alert them if they end up in close proximity to someone who tests positive.
The state will allow venues to simply have attendees self-attest to their vaccination status when they purchase a ticket.
In a call with reporters, CA Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said that localities may still choose to impose their own restrictions past June 15, based on local conditions. And, he said, individual businesses may also create their own rules, including showing proof of vaccination. "There will be some businesses that decide to, you know, require some level of verification of vaccination in order to really have all of their patrons feel comfortable," Ghaly said. "That isn't something that's going to be driven from the state necessarily, but that might be an operational decision, and we're trying to be ready to support individuals who want to do that thoughtfully and responsibly."
It remains to be seen whether San Francisco may still impose some sort of stricter rules beyond what the state is prescribing, but politically speaking Mayor London Breed probably doesn't want to do that unless she absolutely has to. And with case counts remaining very low and vaccinations very high in the city, there likely won't be any reason to impose further restrictions. As of Thursday, 77% of San Franciscans over 16 have received one dose of a vaccine, and 64% are fully vaccinated.
It also should be noted that the new state guidance is coming from Dr. Aragon, the same Dr. Aragon who served as San Francisco's health officer most of last year and was responsible for the extra strictness we saw here.
On Thursday, the San Francisco Department of Public Health issued its own updated guidance for the next several weeks in the "Yellow" tier. The big news there is that it allows people in bars to stand at the bar, or around standing tables — seating no longer required. Distancing is still to be enforced, but isolated groups of up to eight people can be drinking around pool tables, arcade games, etc. now, and don't have to be at a table. Also, places of worship and seated political events can allow fully vaccinated attendees to be seated in close proximity in their own section, but the 50% capacity limit remains in place for now.