President of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors David Canepa celebrates California's reopening on June 15, 2021 at an event featuring a ribbon cutting, free barbecue, live entertainment and a pop-up vaccination site. (Photos courtesy of David Canepa)

While Gov. Gavin Newsom celebrated the state’s reopening at Universal Studios in Hollywood on Tuesday, San Mateo County officials and residents celebrated in Colma, with a ribbon-cutting, free barbecue and live entertainment.

President of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors David Canepa hosted the reopening celebration at 7800 El Camino Real, where he honored essential workers, COVID-19 survivors and small business owners.

On June 15, Californians celebrated the end to mask requirements and capacity limitations at most businesses and events, marking an end to the COVID-19 restrictions that have been in place since the pandemic hit in March 2020.

“It was really a day of celebration, recognizing though what we’ve all been through. These past 15 months have really been tough,” Canepa said.

About 600 to 700 people showed up, Canepa said. The reopening gave him hope about his two goals when he began his role as board president: end COVID-19 and stimulate the economy.

“What June 15 signifies to me – and I believe the governor should make it a state holiday moving forward – is the resiliency of Californians. Better days are ahead,” Canepa said.

Canepa recognized that the reopening would not have been possible without the success of vaccinations in the county and statewide. Tuesday’s celebration also featured a pop-up vaccination event.

In San Mateo County, 86 percent of residents 16 and older have received at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The county also crossed the one-million-dose mark on Monday, as a total of 1,007,356 vaccine doses have been administered in the county.

County Manager Mike Callagy said they will remain focused on vaccinations, especially helping younger age groups get vaccinated.

In addition to keeping people healthy, Callagy said the county wants to ensure that businesses get back up and running, that rental assistance money is spent and that people with food insecurity are taken care of.

“We want to come out of this stronger than we went in. We’re ready to skyrocket in this county,” Callagy said. “We want our people to be out supporting our local businesses, and this is the time to do it now.”

Some county offices also opened to the public on Tuesday, though the exact hours and services vary by department.

Overall Callagy said that county employees are excited to be back and able to interact with the public and their colleagues in person.

“It’s almost like going back to school and seeing all the friends that you’ve missed over the summer break,” Callagy said.

While Callagy has been going into his office throughout the pandemic, the big difference is that their doors are now open to the public.

The county will most likely continue with a hybrid of in-person and remote services once they can serve the public efficiently. Callagy said this means that some employees may be able to work remotely some of the time.

However, county employees and members of the public who visit county offices in person will still be required to wear masks indoors, per guidelines of the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health. However, Cal/OSHA may revise their guidelines this Thursday.

Overall, the county is aligning with state guidance for the reopening.

Still, some business owners have been confused by the guidelines, according to John Kevranian, a businessowner and president of the Broadway Burlingame Business Improvement District. Kevranian helps advise and support the 120 businesses in the district.

“It’s a very confusing time we’re going through,” Kevranian said, adding that it comes down to each business owner’s and employee’s comfort zone.

Kevranian runs the Burlingame store Nuts for Candy with his wife Nora. For their comfort, they are still requiring customers to wear masks in the store.

“But I know many businesses, they have signs that say if you’re vaccinated you don’t need a mask and if you’re not you do need a mask,” Kevranian said. “How do you know who’s what? You have to trust everybody so it’s easy for us just to require a mask, and have the staff wear a mask also.”

Nuts for Candy had their usual crowd on Tuesday. Because some people may not be comfortable going out in person yet, Kevranian said they are continuing with online orders, pick-ups and deliveries.

He described the pandemic as the “toughest 15 months in the 27 years I’ve been in business here.” Their store had to close for two months and Kevranian said he’s grateful for the San Mateo County grants which really helped their business.

“We were closed for over two months. That devastated us and business was not the same throughout the year. We had a good holiday but still all the losses from March till November devastated us and it’s going to take a while to catch up,” Kevranian said.