California could reopen by mid-June, subject to public health parameters: NPR


Gov. Gavin Newsom has said he wants the state to fully reopen on June 15. But he will have to meet vaccination goals and limit hospitalizations for it to work.


The governor of California is planning his life after the pandemic. Gavin Newsom says if the coronavirus count continues to improve, it could happen on June 15.


GAVIN NEWSOM: We can start opening as usual …


NEWSOM: … Subject to the permanent wearing of the mask and permanent vigilance.

INSKEEP: KQED reporter April Dembosky is in San Francisco and is covering this story impatiently, no doubt. Hello.


INSKEEP: Wow, I can’t wait to experience something like always, except I’m always wearing masks. What needs to go for this to work?

DEMBOSKI: Right. There are two main things, vaccines and hospitalizations. So California had one of the slowest vaccine deployments to begin with. But now it’s going pretty well. The state has administered 20 million vaccines so far. It is more than France or Germany.


DEMBOSKY: If California were a country, we would be sixth in the world for the number of hits given. So the governor is saying that if supplies remain stable like that, there will be enough vaccines for all adults in California to be fully protected by June 15. The other thing is, you know, our hospitalization rates have gone down. Mortality rates are low. Case rates are low. So as long as these two trends continue, as long as people stay out of the hospital and the state continues to receive the vaccines it expects, the reopening can go ahead.

INSKEEP: Still some anxiety, though, about the vaccine hesitancy, about which variants are more contagious. Is mid-June realistic for the reopening?

DEMBOSKI: Yes. I mean, you know, it’s math based. The state receives approximately 2 million doses of the vaccine each week. Next week, it will open up eligibility to all adults 16 and older who want to get vaccinated. So if supplies remain stable, two months is a reasonable amount of time for people to make an appointment, get their first and second dose, and give it time to work. Now, as you mentioned, California has detected several variants of the virus here. So the governor says there is a race between the variants and the vaccine. Can we get people vaccinated faster than the variants can spread? So that’s the open question.

INSKEEP: If they meet the June 15 deadline, what does life look like, in quotes, “normal” without quotes, after that date?

DEMBOSKY: Well, there will still be some precautions people will have to take. Californians will have to continue to wear masks. The state has a mask mandate. And it will stay in place indefinitely, especially for indoor activities. In addition, there will be testing requirements. So, for big events like indoor conventions or basketball games, people will need to get tested and show proof of vaccination. At this point, it is unclear how this will be applied at the state level or at the county or city level. Or will the company itself have to do it?

INSKEEP: Given that there is some uncertainty, why would the governor announce now, more than two months in advance, that June 15 is the likely date?

DEMBOSKY: Well, the state says it wants to give businesses enough time to plan and prepare. It has received criticism in the past for not giving enough notice on the changes. And he wants people 16 and older to start signing up for vaccines next week so they’re protected on time. There is also a political reality here. Governor Newsom faces a potential recall election in the fall. So, some Republicans believe this announcement is a direct result of the fact that he felt the pressure of this campaign. So you know, maybe Newsom wants there to be some good news. There could be a political risk in making this announcement 10 weeks in advance. If the numbers in California start to go in the wrong direction, if something happens with vaccine supplies, it may have to reverse this plan to reopen. But for now, Newsom is feeling pretty confident. He says the light at the end of the tunnel has never been brighter. So it might just be about giving people some hope.

INSKEEP: April, thanks for the ideas.

DEMBOSKY: Thanks for having me.

INSKEEP: KQED reporter April Dembosky in San Francisco.

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