Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last week that California may be on track for a mid-June reopening, so long as statewide COVID-19 cases continue to trend downward and vaccine distribution scales up.
That would mark a shift from the state’s current reliance on a tiered reopening system, which has dictated businesses’ operating status across the state since last year. San Mateo County is currently in the orange tier after case rates have stabilized locally to around four new cases per day per 100,000 residents.
“We’re really at a point of transition,” San Mateo County Health Chief Louise Rogers said at last week’s county Board of Supervisors meeting. “This is not over yet, and it’s not going to be over anytime soon.”
The June 15 reopening date is contingent on two factors: widespread vaccine availability and low hospitalization rates statewide. Moving beyond the colored tiers won’t usher in a complete reopening; restrictions like mask mandates and requirements for vaccines and testing are likely to remain in place. Large events, for example, will still require attendees to prove they’ve received a negative test or a vaccine to expand their capacity. Plus, Californians will still be subject to any local and federal travel restrictions.
The state did not provide any specific numbers or benchmarks to qualify for the June 15 date. So far, California has escaped a nationwide rise in cases this spring, despite having vaccinated just over a quarter of residents statewide.
In San Mateo County, despite still-limited vaccine supply, more than 55 percent of residents have been vaccinated. The distribution hasn’t been entirely equitable, with just 43 percent of residents vaccinated in the county’s most at-risk ZIP codes. The county, too, has so far eluded a surge in cases, with around 30 to 50 people testing positive every day. About a dozen people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 countywide, down from nearly 200 during the December and January surge.
Rogers said she’s hopeful that widespread vaccinations for older adults, those with high-risk conditions and those living in crowded housing conditions will keep hospitalizations low, even as the virus continues to spread in the community.
“We are expecting that over the course of the spring and until we have most adults vaccinated, we will probably see upticks,” Rogers said.
Although next week’s vaccine supply numbers into the county will actually take a dip, health officials say they’re ready to scale up vaccinations as soon as supply increases. In the meantime, they’re relying on residents to continue masking, distancing and avoiding gatherings, especially while waiting for their shot.
“We still have a ways to go,” Rogers said.