California is targeting fully reopening its economy by mid-June, Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Tuesday.
The state could end its four-tiered system for reopening on June 15, Newsom said, provided two conditions are met, namely that there is sufficient vaccine supply for residents aged 16 and older who wish to be vaccinated and coronavirus hospitalisations rates are stable and low.
The move away from the tiered system would allow all sectors in the most-populous US state to return to usual operations, but with “common-sense public health policies in place”, the governor’s office said in a statement.
“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 governor said.
Asked if he would consider ending the state’s requirement for face coverings, Newsom said “we are not anticipating, in the short-run, lifting that mandate.”
California became one of the hotspots for coronavirus during a winter surge that swept across the US. Owing to record infection rates and dwindling hospital resources, more than 90 per cent of the state’s almost 40m residents became subject to stay at home orders as their counties entered the most restrictive “purple” tier in the system for reopening.
Pandemic metrics have improved since then and many parts of the state, including the most populous Los Angeles county, have managed to move to less-restrictive tiers. That has allowed them to reopen non-essential businesses and theme parks and hold sporting events.
Over the past week, California has averaged about 46 new infections per 100,000 people a day, which is among the five lowest per capita case rates in the US, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Public health authorities have confirmed 873 cases of the B.1.1.7, the coronavirus variant that was first identified in the UK, in California. That is the fifth-most of any state, behind top-ranked Florida, Michigan, Minnesota and Colorado.