California’s top health official said Friday that the state no longer will require social distancing and will allow full capacity for businesses when the state reopens on June 15.
State health director Dr. Mark Ghaly said that dramatically lower virus cases and increasing vaccinations mean it’s safe for the state to remove nearly all restrictions next month.
“We will continue to have some masking,” but in conformance with national guidelines, Ghaly said. California’s workforce regulators are separately developing safety rules that will continue to apply to employers, he noted.
The state will still recommend that organizers of outdoor events with more than 10,000 people require that attendees 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 to wear masks, Ghaly said.
The state will require vaccine verification or negative test results for indoor events with more than 5,000 attendees, but Ghaly said that can be “by self-attestation” with details to come from health officials on how that process will work.
State officials do not anticipate that they will create or require a vaccination “passport” or other formal verification, he said.
He said California plans to follow U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on wearing masks and traveling domestically and overseas.
That means no more discouraging travel unless there are certain countries where visiting is not advised, and no more voluntary quarantines when people return to California.
California was the first state to issue a statewide shutdown as the virus emerged in March 2020 and at the start of 2021 it was the nation’s epicenter for the disease. Nearly 63,000 people have died from the virus in California, the most in any state in the nation.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, and state health officials have said for weeks they expected to generally lift most business and social restrictions by June 15. Ghaly said the state remains on track to do so just months after the worse surge abated.
The state of 40 million people has administered nearly 35.5 million vaccine doses, and more than three-quarters of residents over age 65 have received at least one dose, he said.
“Vaccines are widely available and we’re proud of where we are,” Ghaly said.
On some days, newly reported infection cases have fallen below 1,000 and there currently are just over 1,300 people in hospitals with the virus.
“We haven’t enjoyed that level since the very early months and weeks of the pandemic,” Ghaly said.