California will reopen fully June 15, state officials confirm

People walk along the boardwalk in Pacific Beach on Wednesday, May 12, 2021.
The state will reopen fully on June 15, a move fueled by declining coronavirus infections and hospitalizations.
(Sandy Huffaker/SDUT)

Declining COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have set the stage for the nation’s largest state to be back in business


More than a year after the COVID-19 pandemic essentially brought the state’s economy to a screeching to a halt, California will reopen fully on June 15, state officials confirmed Friday, May 21.

Declining infection and hospitalization rates driven by the rollout of safe and effective vaccines made state officials decide that it was time for the nation’s largest state to return to pre-pandemic normalcy, doing away with the complicated set of reopening tiers that have governed what businesses can be open and at what levels.

As of June 15, the answer will be far simpler: 100 percent.

“We will not have capacity limitations,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s secretary of health and human services. “There will no longer be restrictions for attendees, customers and guests.”

State officials have signaled for weeks that they expected June 15 to be the reopening date, but Friday’s announcement was an official confirmation, according to Dee Dee Myers, senior adviser to Gov. Gavin Newsom.

There will still be some guidelines governing large venues. Outdoor venues that seat 10,000 or more will be asked (though not required) by the state to verify that attendees have been vaccinated or tested negative for COVID-19; they can also have the unvaccinated and untested mask up.

By comparison, attendees at indoor venues that seat 5,000 or more must have been vaccinated or recently tested. In those large indoor settings, untested and unvaccinated people won’t be able to attend, even if they’re wearing a mask.

Accurately verifying someone’s vaccination status has proven to be a thorny issue for business owners, with critics pointing out that vaccination cards are easy to forge. State officials said on Friday, May 21, that Californians will be able to essentially report their own vaccination status at venues, with the state to provide additional guidance on self-attestation soon.

And while the state won’t insist on any kind of vaccine passport, certain businesses can ask for proof that patrons and guests have been immunized, Ghaly said. The state will work with any organizations that choose to do so.

The state will revise its mask mandate on June 15 to match recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC recently said that fully vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks in virtually all indoor or outdoor settings, with public transportation one of the main exceptions. The fully immunized are those who’ve gotten the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine or their second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines at least two weeks ago.

State travel guidelines will also line up with the CDC, meaning that fully vaccinated people who fly within the U.S. won’t be asked to quarantine or get tested before or after their trips.

New COVID-19 hospitalizations have dipped below 300 a day across the state over the past week, and there have been multiple days recently when new infections were below 1,000 statewide, according to Ghaly. Those numbers may increase a bit after June 15, as people resume pre-pandemic activities, but state officials aren’t worried that will require them to bring back stricter regulations — though they’ll continue to monitor the situation closely.

“It’s not that we won’t see COVID cases moving forward. It’s not that we won’t see even isolated outbreaks,” Ghaly said. “But we do have the tools to be able to manage that.”

The state did not provide an update on Friday, May 21 on whether employers can allow employees to work unmasked in settings where everyone has been fully vaccinated. That’s been a topic the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has considered lately, and Ghaly said those discussions are ongoing.

— Jonathan Wosen is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune