California will move away from its four-tier system for reopening June 15 and fully reopen its economy if certain conditions are met, marking a major pandemic milestone for the nation's most populous state, the governor's office announced Tuesday.
The state’s color-coded Blueprint for a Safer Economy has guided the state’s reopening process in each of its 58 counties during the pandemic. On Tuesday, a statement from the governor’s office said California will move away from the system and fully reopen if two conditions are met.
- If vaccine supply is sufficient for Californians 16 years and older who wish to be inoculated.
- If hospitalization rates are stable and low .
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"We'll be getting rid of the blueprint as you know it today," Gov. Newsom said.
Most capacity limits will be lifted, although large-scale indoor events, such as conventions, will be allowed only with testing or vaccination verification requirements, state health officials said. The two-month advance notice should give people enough time to schedule their first vaccination dose, wait the recommended three to four weeks for a second shot and get through the two-week period for the vaccines to fully kick in, Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly said.
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It also gives businesses and others ample time to prepare.
When it was first released, about 94 percent of California's population was under the most restrictive purple tier. As of Monday, only two counties remained the state’s purple tier -- Inyo and Merced counties.
Los Angeles and Orange counties had moved into the orange tier.
The move away from the tier system means most everyday activities will be allowed, but a statement from the governor’s office urged common-sense health safety measures like masks and vaccinations. The state is counting on a projection that enough people should be vaccinated by mid-June to allow for life to almost get back to a pre-pandemic normal.
Vaccine eligibility will expand to people in California 16 and older starting April 15, although some counties have already started vaccinating young adults.
“With more than 20 million vaccines administered across the state, it is time to turn the page on our tier system and begin looking to fully reopen California’s economy,” Newsom said. “We can now begin planning for our lives post-pandemic. 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.”
The state will continue contact tracing and testing to detect cases early. The entire state will move into the new phase, no matter what tier a county is in at the time.
The June 15 date may be changed, depending on how conditions change by then.
LA County moved in the orange tier last week, but held off on easing some restrictions until this week. The next move in the state’s Blueprint for a Safety Economy, if coronavirus metrics continue to improve, probably won’t happen for at least three weeks, said county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.
Reaching the even less restrictive yellow tier of the state's blueprint currently requires a county's new infection rate to fall below 1 per 100,000 residents. However, that benchmark will be eased to less than 2 per 100,000 residents this week, when the state reaches its goal of administering 4 million doses of vaccine in low-income hard-hit communities throughout California.
The announcement comes as states across the country have lifted health restrictions as more people get vaccinated. California had some of the nation’s strictest pandemic rules, becoming the first to institute a statewide stay-at-home order last spring and adopting a complex, color-coded tier system that dictated which businesses could open and at what capacity depending on how widespread the virus was in a county.
The pandemic has taken its toll in a state that was the first to enact a widespread stay-home order. More than 58,000 people have died from the virus, businesses closed and students have been out of classrooms for much of the year.