California officially dropped its tiered pandemic reopening system and mask mandate for fully vaccinated residents Tuesday, which state officials celebrated by choosing 10 random, vaccinated residents to win $1.5 million each.
As of Tuesday, the state will no longer limit operating capacities for businesses or require them to operate in certain ways, such as only outdoors or through to-go service.
Fully vaccinated residents will no longer be required by state mandate to wear a face covering in public except for certain situations in which doing so is still required by the federal government, including on public transit, at a school or child care facility or at a health care facility.
Unvaccinated residents will still be required to wear a mask or other face covering in most everyday situations as well as at outdoor events of 10,000 people or more or indoor events of 5,000 people or more.
In addition, businesses will have latitude to implement and enforce their own masking requirements if they choose to do so or require customers to present proof of vaccination before dropping their mask.
State Public Health Officer and Department of Public Health Director Dr. Tomas Aragon said that while the virus is still present, COVID-19 transmission has dropped “significantly” across the state, thanks in large part to more than 70 percent of adults receiving at least one vaccine dose as of Tuesday.
“This is a momentous day for our state, thanks in large part to the efforts of Californians to follow public health guidelines during the pandemic and get vaccinated,” Aragon said in a statement.
Gov. Gavin Newsom held an extravagant briefing at Universal Studios to celebrate the state’s full reopening, replete with confetti and cartoon characters like Minions and a Troll.
He also helped choose 10 anonymous, vaccinated residents, one of whom is from Marin County, to win cash prizes of $1.5 million each as part of the state’s vaccine incentive program.
“As a consequence of the vaccination efforts, we have seen a substantial reduction in the spread of COVID-19,” Newsom said. “We have consistently been, over the course of six-plus weeks, below 1 percent positivity. We’ve had the lowest case rates in the country for the vast majority of the last month.”
The state first introduced the tier system, officially called the Blueprint for a Safer Economy, last August to replace what was then known as the coronavirus monitoring list.
The monitoring list involved counties being added to or dropped from the list when their case and hospitalization metrics hit certain thresholds for three consecutive days.
At the time, Newsom and state public health officials touted that the newer four-tiered system would be more flexible in the ways it allowed businesses to operate.
When it was first implemented on Aug. 31, 38 counties were in the purple tier, nine in the red tier, eight in the orange tier and three in the yellow tier.
As of June 8, the last day tiers were updated, 24 counties had moved to yellow, 31 to orange and three to red.
Newsom said the state would not rule out future restrictions if certain new variants of the virus are able to overcome the vaccines currently available or if cases increase again, but argued that Tuesday was a day to “celebrate” a moment of light after 15 months of struggle.
“Today is a day to reconnect with strangers, loved ones, family members, give people hugs. Remind them we’re not out of the woods and also remind them we’re all in this together and we’ve got a lot of work to do. … California is open again.”