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Today we start with a big news: there won’t be a green level after all. In fact, very soon we are ready to say goodbye to the purple, red, orange and yellow levels that have dictated our lives so much for months.
California plans to lift all of its coronavirus restrictions on June 15, provided there are enough Covid-19 vaccines available for anyone 16 years of age or older and hospitalizations remain low and stable, announced on Tuesday. state officials.
The move will allow Californians – no matter what county they live in – to return to restaurants, bars, cinemas, places of worship and concerts without strict capacity limits for the first time in over a year. . President Biden said there will be enough vaccines available for all adults in the country by the end of May.
[If you missed it, read about how experts graded California’s vaccine rollout so far.]
Other states have already eased health restrictions at a time when the Biden administration is begging them not to make these changes yet.
The country is facing a possible fourth outbreak of the virus, and the spread of variants of the virus is causing concern. The number of coronavirus cases has increased in many states.
But in California, cases have been on the decline since peaking earlier this year, averaging around 2,700 new cases per day now, the lowest figure since June.
And according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of Monday, 34% of the state’s total population has received at least one vaccine and 18% are fully vaccinated.
“With over 20 million vaccines administered across the state, it’s time to turn the page on our tiering system and start looking to fully reopen the California economy,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement. . “We can now start planning our lives after the pandemic.”
However, the state will maintain a mask mandate in place for the foreseeable future, and there will be limits on large indoor events or conventions of more than 5,000 people at least until the fall.
Over the past year or so, California has become a high-profile case study of how reopening a large economy can be more complex, unequal, and politically charged than closing one.
[Read about how politics have shaped Gov. Gavin Newsom’s pandemic response.]
California was the first state to implement a stay-at-home order last year, March 19, plunging the state’s 40 million residents into the nation’s biggest experiment to prevent transmission of the disease. virus.
Since then, California has flipped between different levels of restriction as cases spike, decline and then spike again, overwhelming hospitals in the winter, even as other states have allowed full reopenings.
The Newsom administration’s reopening strategies have changed frequently and have been implemented piecemeal across the state’s 58 counties. They have both been widely criticized as confusing and credited with saving countless lives.
The latest announcement will lift what state leaders have called California’s “blueprint for a safer economy,” which established a system of color-coded levels of restrictions. As counties hit certain case thresholds, they were allowed to pass through the levels, a system introduced in August when the state was grappling with an alarming rise in the number of new cases.
Mr Newsom and other state leaders stressed that the state must have the capacity to quickly reimpose emergency measures if hospitals start to fill up.
[See scenes from the depths of Los Angeles’s surge.]
Around Thanksgiving, there were signs that the worst fears of public health officials would come true. In December, hospitals – especially in hard-hit areas like Los Angeles – were overwhelmed with patients and the state ordered Californians to stay home again.
Now that attention has turned to the vaccine rollout in the state, Californians have been frustrated by what they saw as a confusing and chaotic effort.
When state officials recently announced that the state would expand vaccine eligibility to anyone aged 16 and over from April 15, Dr Christopher Longhurst, UC San’s chief information officer Diego Health, predicted “continued frustration as more people become eligible but supply is unavailable demand.”
[Track coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and the vaccine rollout across California.]
Experts also criticized the process for helping bypass the poorest and hardest-hit communities, even as state officials repeatedly said fairness was a “north star.”
Supporters said that in California – where leaders are painfully aware of the divisions between the state’s wealthiest, often white, communities and its poorer communities, which are often home to predominantly Latino essential workers – American – speed and accuracy should be a priority in vaccine distribution.
“Equity and scale are possible for the richest states in the country,” said Jacqueline Martinez Garcel, Executive Director of the Latino Community Foundation recently.
State officials said on Tuesday they were confident in the state’s ability to immunize millions more Californians, including particularly vulnerable workers, in the coming months.
“We have been very thoughtful and measured about who is eligible to be vaccinated,” Dr Mark Ghaly, Secretary of State for Health and Human Services, said Tuesday in a briefing with reporters.
How did you find your vaccine?
Help us understand the vaccine rollout in California by telling us how you found your vaccine or a date for a loved one.
Have you used the state’s My Turn system? Has your health care provider let you know you are eligible? Have you been to a clinic? Have you spent hours refreshing a county date site for a parent or grandparent? Did you wait at a mass vaccination site hoping to score an unused dose?
Email us your story at CAtoday@nytimes.com. (And thanks in advance for sharing!)
Here’s what else to know today
With the end of pandemic lockdowns in California finally in sight, we were able to start thinking about how the past year has changed us.
My colleagues have put together readers’ thoughts on what can be different in our lives before. Included are meditations on grief and depression, but also resilience, personal transformation and love.
And if you’re not feeling much other than fatigue, you’re definitely not alone. It might not solve the problem, but you might find some solace in reading how we all hit a wall.
California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. PT on weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com. Have you been forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here and read each edition online here.
Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, graduated from UC Berkeley, and has reported statewide, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles – but she always wants to see more. Follow here or on Twitter.
California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from UC Berkeley.