California lifted most of its Covid-19 restrictions Tuesday as part of a grand reopening in which the state ended capacity limits, physical distancing and – at least for those vaccinated – mask requirements.
The new health order went into effect and allows vaccinated people to go without a face covering in most situations, putting the state in line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Masks are still required on public transportation, in hospitals and jails, as well as at schools and child care centers, pending updated guidance from the CDC.
California’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board initially said masks would still be required unless everyone in the same room had been vaccinated. However, last week, the board reversed itself and said fully vaccinated workers do not need to wear masks or physically distance, regardless of others’ vaccination status.
Gov. Gavin Newsom indicated he will sign an executive order later this week on workplace mask usage “to clear up any ambiguity.”
Public health measures will remain only for mega events with 5,000 or more people indoors or 10,000 attendees outdoors, with vaccine verification required or at least recommended, according to the revised health order.
California also will stop limiting capacity and enforcing physical distancing at all venues, and the color-coded tier system for each county will be retired, Newsom said in a news release Friday.
“California is turning the page on this pandemic, thanks to swift action by the state and the work of Californians who followed public health guidelines and got vaccinated to protect themselves and their communities,” said Newsom. “With nearly 40 million vaccines administered and among the lowest case rates in the nation, we are lifting the orders that impact Californians on a day-to-day basis while remaining vigilant to protect public health and safety as the pandemic persists.”
California businesses are already adjusting to the changes in ways big and small.
Just after midnight, the Abbey Food & Bar in West Hollywood brought back dancing, DJs and sitting at the bar for a party to celebrate the end of restrictions. Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers are holding a “Reopening Day” promo, with 25,000 Justin Turner bobbleheads, to welcome back a full capacity home crowd.
On Tuesday morning, several residents who spoke to CNN on the streets of San Francisco said they were happy with the lifting of restrictions.
“I’m very happy about it. I think as long as we’re safe, it’s great,” Jim Bloedau said. “Go out and get vaccinated. It’s safe and everybody should take care of themselves and take care of each other.”
‘It’s not mission accomplished’
California’s grand reopening comes as a majority of residents have been vaccinated and as Covid-19 infections and deaths have sharply receded from a startling spike this winter.
In California, about 72% of adults and about 59% of all residents have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, according to CDC data. Among all 50 states, California has the third-lowest seven-day death rate per capita and the seventh-lowest seven-day infection rate per capita.
Similarly, New York lifted its own state-mandated Covid-19 restrictions on Tuesday after 70% of New Yorkers had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.
At a news conference Monday, California Gov. Newsom said the reopening did not mean that efforts to stop the virus were over.
“We’re not done. This is not spiking the football tomorrow. It’s not mission accomplished tomorrow. This virus is not going away tomorrow. This pandemic is not behind us tomorrow. We’re very mindful that already in 2021 globally more people have lost their lives to Covid than the entire year 2020,” he said.
Newsom acknowledged that the CDC’s mask-wearing guidance relies on people to tell the truth about their vaccination status.
“It’s on the basis of trust, and that’s the system that’s in place nationally and it’s the system that will be in place in California,” he said.
Still, all rules are not back to normal.
Some executive orders will remain in place, including one that allows pharmacy technicians to administer vaccine doses. Some provisions will be slowly retired, with about 90% of the governor’s pandemic-related executive orders to be lifted by September, Newsom’s office estimated. Health officials plan to keep these new guidelines in place until at least October.
CNN’s Alexandra Meeks and Dan Simon contributed to this report.