California governor plans to fully reopen state by June 15

Los Angeles (AFP) –


California will fully reopen its economy by June 15 if the current pace of vaccinations continues, lifting all Covid-related restrictions on businesses, Governor Gavin Newsom said Tuesday.

The nation's most populous state has administered 20 million vaccine doses, and new infections remain low after rapidly declining since January.

The state will end its tier-based reopening blueprint provided there are no coronavirus infection spikes or vaccine supply shortages, said Newsom.

"We can confidently say by June 15th that we can start to open up, as business as usual, subject to ongoing mask-wearing and ongoing vigilance," he told a press conference.

All businesses will be free to reopen, with Californians encouraged to follow "common-sense risk reduction measures."

Large-scale indoor events, such as conventions, will be allowed to occur with testing or vaccination verification requirements.

The changes will simultaneously affect the entire state of 40 million people, which boasts the United States' largest economy.

"We can now begin planning for our lives post-pandemic... the light at the end of this tunnel has never been brighter," said Newsom in a separate statement.

However, the state will retain "the option to revisit the June 15 date if needed," and will monitor vaccine efficacy against variants.

California, the first state in the US to issue a blanket stay-at-home order last March, was widely praised for its early handling of the pandemic.

It suffered a severe winter Covid-19 spike, becoming one of the nation's epicenters for the deadly virus, but saw a steep decline in infections from mid-January. In recent weeks, cases have remained low even as they have risen elsewhere in the US.

Newsom has been under pressure to reopen the economy, and is facing a likely recall election following a petition to remove him, fueled in part by his handling of the pandemic.

"California has made incredible progress controlling the spread of Covid-19 by staying home, masking, and getting vaccines out quickly to Californians in every corner of the state, including in those communities hardest hit by this pandemic," said California health secretary Mark Ghaly.