Nearly all statewide coronavirus restrictions could be lifted June 15, after state public health officials announced a new Green Tier on the statewide pandemic reopening system.
“What does it mean to get beyond the blueprint? It really means that everyday activities will be allowed and businesses will be allowed to reopen with common sense safety measures,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the state Health and Human Services Agency.
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Masks are expected to stay and there’s no timeline for ending the mandate, Ghaly said during the Tuesday media briefing.
“We will maintain our mask mandate,” Ghaly said. “The entire state will move into this phase as a whole.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom said the four-tiered reopening system will be scrapped June 15.
“Will be getting rid of the colored tiers — moving past the dimmer switch. We will be moving past the blueprint as you know it today,” Newsom said at a Tuesday news conference.
He said it will be “business as usual,” but with masks.
Businesses will no longer have to limit the number of people in their stores, according to state officials.
“We are going to be moving beyond having specific sector by sector, industry by industry capacity limits,” Ghaly said, adding public health officials are “really focused on making sure that as many Californians as possible are getting vaccinated and making sure that people are wearing masks in the highest risk settings.”
That means bars, restaurants and other businesses could hit full capacity after June 15.
“We feel comfortable letting those capacity limits get increased and go to full capacity within key points of watching that data and making sure we continue to track the local conditions,” Ghaly said.
There’s no plans for a state-mandated vaccine passport system, Ghaly said.
“There are no current plans by the state to impose or have a vaccine passport system here in California. That said we know that businesses are exploring, already, how they ensure that people are vaccinated can come and enjoy the benefits of being vaccinated,” Ghaly said.
But large conventions will have a vaccination requirement.
“Wherein full capacity at convention centers won’t be recognized without some requirements of vaccine,” Ghaly said. “So until Oct. 1, large conventions above 5,000 will be prohibited until they can prove that all attendees are vaccinated.”
The details are still being ironed out about how large music festivals, like Coachella, can resume.
State officials are also working with school officials to reopen classrooms at full capacity at some point.
“Wearing a mask is still a requirement in schools and for the foreseeable future will be,” Ghaly said. “We continue to want every kid back in school as soon as possible working over the course of the next many weeks and months to prepare for a future where we can do that as simply and at full capacities as possible that’s still focused on those public health principles.”
Newsom said that the expectation is there will be no barrier to having students back in person at schools by June 15.
“On June 15 we anticipate there will be no barrier to getting all of our kids safely back, not just K-12 but community colleges including institutions of higher learning,” Newsom said.
State and local health officials are pushing mass vaccinations leading up to June 15 in an effort to hit herd immunity.
But local gaps in distribution persist.
Latinos, while making up roughly 35% of OC’s residents, have had nearly 47% of all cases, nearly 38% of deaths and have received 11% of the vaccinations so far.
In comparison, white people make up nearly 39% of the population, have almost 25% cases, nearly 38% of deaths and have received nearly 36% of vaccines.
Meanwhile, Orange County’s coronavirus hospitalizations continue dropping.
As of Monday, 109 people were hospitalized, including 16 in intensive care units.
That’s the lowest hospitalizations have been in a year.
The virus has now killed 4,772 people.
COVID deaths have now surpassed average yearly cancer deaths in OC.
It’s also killed more than heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and strokes do on a yearly average, respectively.
Orange County has averaged around 20,000 deaths a year since 2016, including 543 annual flu deaths, according to state health data.
Last year, more than 24,400 OC residents died, according to the latest state health data.
According to the state death statistics, cancer kills over 4,600 people, heart disease kills over 2,800, more than 1,400 die from Alzheimer’s disease and strokes kill over 1,300 people.
Here’s the latest on the virus numbers across Orange County from county data:
Infections | Hospitalizations & Deaths | City-by-City Data
Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC staff reporter. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerCustodio
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.