California Sets June 15 Target to Fully Reopen Its Economy, Newsom Says

California officials plan to fully reopen the economy on June 15 — if the pandemic continues to abate — after driving down coronavirus case loads in the most populous U.S. state.

Capacity limits on restaurants, movie theaters and other businesses will be lifted, Secretary of Health and Human Services Mark Ghaly said on a conference call with reporters Tuesday.

Governor Gavin Newsom has been slowly easing restrictions under California’s current tier-based system after a winter virus surge spurred renewed lockdowns. The state’s outbreak has dramatically improved, with average daily cases falling to about 2,000 from more than 40,000 in January. Its test positivity rate is at 1.6%, the lowest in the U.S.

The state will still require people to wear masks in public. And it doesn’t plan to require any kind of vaccine passport to prove that anyone has had an inoculation.

Newsom, a Democrat, will likely face a recall election later this year in large part driven by anger over business closures and other restrictions.

“We are going to move beyond sector-by-sector, industry-by-industry capacity limits,” Ghaly said.

The move is dependent on the continued availability of vaccines and continued decreases in Covid-19 hospitalizations. The state said it has administered more than 20 million vaccine doses.

“Those who are vaccinated — they generally have seen very mild symptoms,” Ghaly said. “If we continue to see that and see the stabilization in data, then we will more forward with that June 15 date.”

There are a couple of exceptions to the lifting of restrictions. The state will require convention centers and meetings of more than 5,000 people to have a process for testing attendees or asking them for proof of vaccination. The state is also still working on standards for large events such as Coachella music festival, Ghaly said.

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